In rugby circles it is said that home field advantage is a team’s 24th player.
Just think of Loftus Versfeld and Ellispark.
For the past three days at the Marco Simone country club outside Rome, the European golf team had a 13th player in its ranks in the Ryder Cup team battle against America: the passionate spectators.
The crowd grew to 50,000 daily and played a very big role. They shouted, sang and cheered every stroke of the Europeans. Surely it couldn’t have been easy for the Americans…sucking the spectator rear teat the entire time.
One could experience it in their posture, but that is the nature of the tournament.
The crowd cheered on the European team to beat America 16.5 – 11.5 and thus stretch its unbeaten status at home to 30 years.
The table was already set for a European victory on Friday when the team made a clean sweep in the morning’s innings with 4 – 0. When the Europeans increased it in the afternoon innings, the blow was delivered.
The European team built on that on Saturday and built up an almost unassailable lead of 4.5 points.
No team has ever been able to catch up with such a big deficit in the singles.
The Americans did not lie down; they didn’t turn the other cheek and didn’t let the spectators unnerve them.
But the backlog was simply too great.
European youngsters like Ludwig Åberg, Rasmus Højgaard and Robert McIntyre started as boys but ended as men.
Then the experienced Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy carried the mantle, moving into the limelight… something that was missing from the American team.
It was a see-saw ride of emotions, of passion, courage and action for the Europeans.
This is what sport is all about: about team spirit, supporting each other. To get to the finish line or winning pole where your teammates are waiting for you and hugging you.
The irony was that the European team captain, Luke Donald, who will in all likelihood be asked to stay on, only took over the reins from Henrik Stenson a year ago who joined the LIV series.
Donald also had to do without Sergio Garcia (he earned 28.5 points in ten tournaments in his Rydeker Cup career), Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood, who also play in the LIV series.
Donald took issue with his captain choices, such as Åberg, who only three months ago became a professional player. Together with Højgaard and McIntyre they shone.
MacIntyre finished unbeaten with 2.5 points in three games, Åberg earned two points and Højgaard half a point.
The curtain has now fallen on the 2023 tournament, but new heroes have been born. But only until the next tournament in two years in New York at Bethpage Black.
Sunday’s results (singles matches): Europe named first: Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler halve; Viktor Hovland beat Collin Morikawa 4&3; Justin Rose lost 2&1 to Patrick Cantlay; Rory McIlroy beats Sam Burns 3&1; Matt Fitzpatrick lost by one to Max Homa; Tyrrell Hatton beat Brian Harman 3&2; Ludwig Åberg and Brooks Koepa halved; Sepp Straka and Justin Thomas halve; Rasmus Højgaard and Xander Schauffele halved; Shane Lowry and Jordan Spieth halve; Tommy Fleetwood beats Rickie Flower 3&1; Robert MacIntyre beat Wyndham Clark 2&3.
Final score: Europe 16.5 America 11.5.
- Additional sources: BBC and The Golf Channel