The 2023 Ryder Cup got under way at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club early on Friday morning, and Europe followed up their 4-0 clean sweep in the morning foursomes with a thrilling fightback to claim the afternoon fourballs 2.5-1.5. It means they take a five-point lead heading into day two in Rome.
A joyous Matt Fitzpatrick said he felt “absolutely incredible” as both he and Rory McIlroy ran riot in Rome to exorcise Ryder Cup ghosts.
The pair embraced with the longest hug of the day on the 15th, savouring in a magnificent afternoon to forget respective tales of despair in 2021.
McIlroy had been in tears on that final day at Whistling Straits two years ago, but showed glimpses of his imperious best to secure maximum points in his pairings.
However, the biggest plaudits of the day were saved for Fitzpatrick, who ended an eight year winless streak with the all-round performance of the day. His captain, Luke Donald, went as far as declaring he was “carrying” McIlroy through the afternoon such was his dominance. Read more on Fitzpatrick’s superb showing on Friday.
When is the Ryder Cup?
This year’s Ryder Cup started on Friday, September 29 with the final day on Sunday, October 1.
The Ryder Cup is always staged in late September or early October after the season’s major championships, and lasts for three days.
Where is it being held?
The 44th Ryder Cup is being hosted by Italy, for the first time in its history.
The venue is the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club just outside Rome, which has previously hosted the Italian Open. For a more detailed look at its 18 holes, we have compiled a hole-by-hole guide to the course.
Italian players to represent Europe with distinction include Costantino Rocca and the Molinari brothers, Francesco and Eduardo.
Seven of the past eight contests have been won by the home side, the exception being the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012 where Europe recovered from 10-4 down to pull off a remarkable victory.
Nine of the United States team made a recent scouting trip to Marco Simone as they attempt to secure a first win on European soil since 1993, but many of the European side have contested the Italian Open at the venue over the past three years, with Bob MacIntyre (2022) and Nicolai Hojgaard (2021) winning the title.
How can I watch on TV?
NBC is the broadcaster in America, where viewers will either have to stay up late or wake up very early to catch the morning sessions on Friday and Saturday. When the Ryder Cup was played in France five years ago, play began at 2.10am Eastern Time, with the afternoon sessions starting at a more civilised 7.50am Eastern Time.
No such worries for viewers in the UK, where there will be exclusive live television coverage on Sky Sports. In 2018, the first matches went off at 7.10am (BST). Click here for full details of how to watch the Ryder Cup.
What is the Ryder Cup?
The Ryder Cup, one of the most-watched sporting events in the world, is distinctive for inserting competitors from an individual sport into a team environment. Aside from the golf, the team dynamics and relationships have made for compelling viewing.
Amateur golfer and businessman Samuel Ryder conceived the idea of a match between British and American professionals, with the inaugural Ryder Cup played in Massachusetts in 1927.
The match was played between an American and British or British and Irish team until 1977.
After nine US victories and one tie in 10 meetings, Jack Nicklaus wrote a letter to Lord Derby (then president of the British PGA) suggesting Britain and Ireland merge with Continental Europe to make the Ryder Cup more competitive.
Ryder Cups became far more closely fought and dramatic by the mid-Eighties, and the extravaganza we know today was born.
Who are the Ryder Cup captains?
Europe will be led by Luke Donald, who replaced Henrik Stenson last year after the Swede was stripped of the title because of his defection to LIV Golf. The US captain is 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson.
Who is on the teams?
Six players qualified automatically – the three leading players on the European points list and the next three players on the world points list. The qualification period ended on Sept 3.
The six leading European players are (from the European points list) Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Bob MacIntyre and (from the world points list) Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick.
For his six wild cards, Donald picked Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Sepp Straka, Shane Lowry, Nicolai Hojgaard and Ludvig Aberg.
European golfers who are playing on the LIV Golf tour were not permitted to qualify for the Ryder Cup. This is because European Ryder Cup players must be members of the DP World Tour and those players who signed up with LIV were forced to give up their places on the DP World Tour.
Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
Jon Rahm (Spain)
Bob MacIntyre (Scotland)
Viktor Hovland (Norway)
Tyrrell Hatton (England)
Matt Fitzpatrick (England)
Tommy Fleetwood (England)
Sepp Straka (Austria)
Justin Rose (England)
Shane Lowry (Ireland)
Nicolai Hojgaard (Denmark)
Ludvig Aberg (Sweden)
Five-time major winner Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns and Rickie Fowler complete the US captain’s six picks to join automatic qualifiers Scottie Scheffler, Open Champion Brian Harman, US Open winner Wyndham Clark, Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schuaffele.
Thomas failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs and admitted it had been “humiliating and embarrassing” to card a second round of 81 in the US Open in June.
The two-time major winner also carded an opening 82 in the Open at Royal Liverpool, but was selected by Johnson ahead of the likes of Keegan Bradley and Cameron Young.
Donald praises Fitzpatrick’s performance
Matt Fitzpatrick had said ahead of the Ryder Cup that he hoped to play fourballs for the first time to “experience the pressure of playing the full round”.
Luke Donald said on Friday that it had been “a personal goal” of his too after marvelling at Fitzpatrick securing one of the great scoring stretches in the history of this golf match.
“You could see the look in his eye on the first tee,” Donald said after watching Fitzpatrick’s six straight one-putts in a birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run.
“He was so, so ready to get off to a good start. He was six under through six holes on his own ball. He was carrying Rory. Obviously Rory played some good golf after that and it was a real team effort. But I was so happy for Fitz.”
For an extended period at Marco Simone, all McIlroy could do was laugh, stand back and applaud his partner. On a record-equalling day for Europe, Fitzpatrick embarked on one of the great scoring stretches in the history of this golf match.
“I was having goosebumps,” Fitzpatrick said after six straight one-putts in a birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run, with a total of 60 feet of putts made. “I’d make a putt and the crowd would go crazy.”
Some redemption act after five straight defeats across away matches in 2016 and 2021. “The big thing is to not try too hard,” he had emphasised before joining the action at Marco Simone.
It was the first time Fitzpatrick had played fourballs at a Ryder Cup. But joining forces with McIlroy, already confident after sweeping his successful pairing in the foursomes with Tommy Fleetwood, the pair swept aside Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele 5 and 3 in the afternoon fourballs.
“I was laughing to Rory, [saying] ‘What do we do here then?’” he said. McIlroy replied: “For the first nine holes, I was trying to hang on to this man’s coattails. I said to him walking up No. 10, ‘At least I contributed twice.’”
Fitzpatrick is a different player these days, having become a major champion since his last appearance. But only now can memories fade of twice losing in the foursomes with a 48-year-old Lee Westwood and then to Daniel Berger on No. 18 in the last singles match.
Why are Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and other LIV golfers not playing in the Ryder Cup?
In order to be eligible for selection for the European Ryder Cup team, players must hold DP World Tour membership – something Garcia, Westwood and Ian Poulter gave up this year.
European golfers who joined the breakaway LIV tour were engaged in a lengthy legal dispute with the Tour over the latter’s ability to sanction them for making the Saudi switch.
This year, it was ruled the Tour could punish LIV players, with each given fines totalling up to £100,000 in some cases as well as a three-event ban.
Poulter led attempts to appeal this decision but when the Tour’s ability to issue the sanctions was upheld, he, along with other leading European LIV players, chose to hand in their tour card and thus renege their Ryder Cup eligibility.
Why has Brooks Koepka been selected?
The key distinction with the US team is that Ryder Cup eligibility is not linked to the PGA Tour but to membership of the PGA of America – the organisers of the USPGA.
Koepka, and other US LIV golfers, are blocked from playing on the PGA Tour but have still been able to earn ranking points through playing in the four majors.
Despite winning the USPGA and finishing second at the Masters, Koepka did not qualify automatically for Team USA but he – and other LIV golfers – remained eligible for Ryder Cup selection through their continued membership of the PGA of America.
What is the Ryder Cup format?
Most golf tournaments such as the Masters and Open Championship are strokeplay, where every shot counts and the player with the lowest score after 72 holes wins.
The Ryder Cup is matchplay, meaning players compete as individuals or pairs against their opponents rather than the course. The pair or player with the lowest score wins the hole. For example, if Europe record a four on the first hole and the US a five, Europe will go one-up. If the scores are reversed on the second, the match will go back to all-square and so forth.
The match is won when the advantage is bigger than the number of holes remaining. If it finishes all-square, the match is halved.
There are two teams of 12. On Friday, there are four foursomes matches in the morning and four fourballs matches in the afternoon. This is repeated on Saturday. It means four players from each team sit out each session, with the team captain selecting his pairs and deciding who to leave out. There can be different pairs for each format.
The only time all 24 players are on the course is Sunday’s ‘singles’ when they go head-to-head in 12 direct match-ups.
Winning a match earns your team a point, with a halved match worth half a point to each team. For full details on the format, click here.
Those proficient at maths will have realised there are 28 points on offer, so both teams are aiming for 14 1/2 points to win the Ryder Cup. A 14-14 tie would mean the holders retain the trophy (i.e. the US on this occasion).
What is the Ryder Cup schedule?
Tuesday, 27-Thursday 28 September
Practice days with the opening ceremony on Thursday evening.
Friday, September 29
Saturday, Sept 30
Four foursomes matches in morning, four fourballs matches in afternoon.
Sunday, Oct 1
12 singles matches before closing ceremony.
What are the best of the odds?
Odds correct as of September 29
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