If it wasn’t apparent after the 2023 Ryder Cup or before it began, the European players certainly care about the tournament more than their American counterparts.
The Europeans’ domination in this event is not just limited to European soil, where the American teams have not won in 30 years; they simply dominate the event wherever it is played.
The Europeans won the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome with a score of 16½ to 11½. But it was really over after the first morning session when the Europeans took a commanding 4-0 lead, forcing the Americans to play catchup. The deficit proved to be too much.
The Europeans have won five of the last seven tournaments and 10 of the last 14.
That’s an outlier right there, and yet the odds by bookmakers going into this year were not heavily weighted in their favor. Maybe it was because they were throttled two years before on U.S. soil.
There were a variety of factors that played into this year’s win, but one of the main factors simply came down to the Europeans’ best players delivered. Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X), Viktor Hovland (Titleist Pro V1) and Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x) collectively had a record of nine wins, two losses and three ties.
“That made the big difference in this Ryder Cup,” said NBC lead analyst Paul Azinger.
The picks by American captain Zach Johnson (Titleist Pro V1) had a collective record of four wins, 12 losses and four ties.
“That didn’t work out,” Azinger said.
Jordan Spieth (Titleist Pro V1x) has a collective record of 1-6-1 in Ryder Cup and President’s Cup tournaments. He had a record of 0-2-2 in the 2023 Ryder Cup.
Johnson chose his roster based on the buddy system. He picked Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x), who had a terrible 2022-2023 season and paired him with Spieth because of their longstanding friendship. Thomas had a record of 1-2-1, which was actually good compared to many of his teammates.
Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1), who had a collective season of frustration with his putting, had a record of 0-2-2 and was brought to tears Saturday morning following a disastrous. But at least he showed his emotions.
Rickie Fowler (TaylorMade TP5x), who enjoyed a bigtime comeback in 2022-23, did not earn a point. He was only picked to play in two events. He was one of several American players battling cold symptoms, which can be the only reasonable excuse for the Americans, who had a team doctor.
The Europeans played some practice rounds to prepare for the tournament, and some of the players tuned up in competitions on the European Tour. But there was a collective spirit among the Europeans. They had a stall decorated in their dressing room for the late Seve Ballesteros, which particularly had an effect on Rahm. He has repeatedly said Ballesteros, a fellow Spaniard, was the reason he played the sport and is his idol. European captain Luke Donald (Titleist Pro V1x) and his assistants wanted their dressing room to be a starting point to galvanize their players.
“They play for more than themselves,” said Donald in an interview with NBC interviewer Cara Banks. “They come together for special memories. It obviously makes it that much sweeter to come out on top.”
Now compare that with the comments made by Johnson with NBC interviewer Steve Sands.
“I think the Europeans played some phenomenal golf, I think it’s really that simple,” Johnson said. “I think my guys showed true heart, true grit, a lot of character. They played for each other. I love them. Hats off to Luke.”
There is already talk Donald will captain the 2025 team, but you can bet Johnson will not be given that honor because of some of his decisions. At the end of the day, coaches coach and players play, but as captain Johnson was and will be the object of criticism.
It is widely believed the Americans as a whole did not play enough meaningful golf in between the end of the 2022-2023 PGA Tour final event and the start of the Ryder Cup. While they did come early to familiarize themselves with the Marco Simone course, it just wasn’t enough.
“Europe had a philosophy in their preparation,” Azinger said. “They played three whole practice matches to create a sense of urgency to get off to a quick start.”
The reality is all this will be a blip on players’ records, though history has shown some of the younger players benefit from playing in these international events.
MAD MAX: Magnus Maximus the Roman Emperor way back in history, but in current history it was Max Homa (Titleist Pro V1) who became the emperor of the Ryder Cup in Rome. Homa, who has emerged as a star on the PGA Tour and world stage, finished as America’s best player with a 3-1-1 record.
In his final hole in his match against Matt Fitzpatrick (Titleist Pro V1) on Sunday, his second shot landed in deep rough off to the side of the green. Rather than play out of the terrible lie, he opted to take a penalty stroke, which led the European fans to boo, thinking perhaps he was asking for a break from the rules officials. He made the decision in collaboration with longtime caddie Joe Grenier. Homa made a shot for the ages chipping it to within eight feet of the cup and then drained it to win his match. Grenier bowed in reverence to Homa. It may have been the shot of the tournament, and it gave the Americans a little life. It took almost 90 minutes later for the Europeans to clinch.
Surprisingly, in a match against Tommy Fleetwood (TaylorMade TP5x), Fowler opted to concede the hole and effectively handing the Europeans the match. It was only a short putt, but nonetheless Fowler was overly gracious. I guess chivalry does exist in competitive golf.
NBC’S COVERAGE: I thought at times NBC’s coverage was overly partisan in the Americans’ favor, which is to be expected, though there was some European members who contributed observations and thoughts. I would have loved to have seen at least one European panelist as part of the crew for all the matches to go alongside Azinger and Dan Hicks. I really enjoyed the work of Banks, who works primarily for the Golf Channel in the studio and does some field work for NBC. Her interview with Donald just before the Europeans clinched the win caused him to become emotional. She asked insightful questions and stayed with the interview.
Donald was appointed team captain 14 months ago after Henrik Stenson was stripped of that position when he bolted to LIV Golf.
“It’s been a roller coaster since I got the job 14 months ago,” Donald said. “It’s something I always dreamed about. It was just an honour and a privilege. It’s just been a (series) of emotions, asking myself if I could do this…But I had faith in these guys.”
Sands’ interview with Johnson was equally solid. Johnson has a solid resumé that includes wins in the Masters and Open Championship.
“My resumé is irrelevant,” he told Sands. “It ain’t about me. I’ll do the media, I’ll do the interviews, I’ll take the burden on me. Those guys are amazing individuals, on and off the golf course. It ain’t about me, Steve.”
Sands asked Johnson why the Americans lost.
“There’s probably a number of factors there,” said Johnson. “It’s a little raw, a little fresh, hard to digest, I was too much in my competitive mode today. Theres ebbs and flows, that’s golf. That’s the Ryder Cup. I know where we can be. We’re Team USA and we’ll be better because of it. If sounds cliché and cheesy, but we’ll figure it out. Motivation is not difficult.”
THE HAT FLAP: Shame on Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir for posting on social media on Saturday that Patrick Cantlay (Titleist Pro V1x) wasn’t wearing a hat as a protest over the players not receiving pay. Cantlay addressed that after his play concluded on Saturday with three clutch birdie putts. He said it was simply a case of the hat not fitting, just as it was two years ago in the tournament.
So Weir clearly didn’t do his homework, but NBC did not mention that until Cantlay explained why. It should have pointed out Cantlay went hatless in 2021.
This whole thing about players not wearing hats in international tournaments is ridiculous. Why not get the measurements from the players’ sponsors?
It’s a joke, to be honest.
Rory McIlroy, who has nor worn hats in international competitions claiming his head is so small, was perturbed when Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava took off his hat to celebrate Cantlay’s birdie on the 18th hole on Saturday’s afternoon sessions. LaCava got in the way of McIlroy lining up his putt. It was later shown McIlroy had some choice words for LaCava in the carport area. McIlroy twice told Banks in an interview he did not meet with LaCava on Sunday but did say the incident became a rallying point for the Europeans by lighting a fire in their collective bellies.
Thomas and best buddy Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X) did not wear caps in their Sunday matches. At one point, Thomas doffed his imaginary cap in derision to the fans after making a putt. But later on he was battling the sun and you wonder if a hat may have helped.
A post-tournament story came out that Schauffele’s position on the team was threatened by a contract dispute that almost led to him being given the boot. According to story in an England publication The Times, Schauffele’s father said his son and Cantlay wanted amendments in the tournament contracts denying Netflix from having entry into the U.S. locker room.
Some investigative journalism would have discovered that ahead of time. So there was some element of truth to the Sky Sports reporter’s social media post, but not enough to substantiate it. As a journalist, I consider that irresponsible.