Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome, Italy — September 29, 2023
The greatest spectacle in golf, The Ryder Cup, teed off for the 44th time this morning a little after 1:30 AM Eastern, 7:30 AM local time in Rome. The four golfers scheduled to play the opening match posed for pictures in the shadow of the grandstands that surrounded the first tee.
Those grandstands were packed with spectators. Golf fans in attendance lined both sides of the fairway all the way to the green, where additional tiered seating surrounded the putting surface.
Up first, Scottie Scheffler from Team USA, the #1 ranked golfer in the world, hit his tee shot into the left rough. Jon Rahm from Team Europe, the former #1 and current #3 ranked professional, landed his drive on the right side of the first fairway.
Because the Friday and Saturday morning sessions in the Ryder Cup are played in alternate shot foursomes format, the playing partners of Scheffler and Rahm would be required to hit the second shot for each team.
Sam Burns from Team USA extracted the ball from the rough but left his shot in the fringe just short of the green. Tyrell Hatton from Team Europe did his job and placed his shot safely on the green.
Alternate again, Scheffler chipped right at the pin. The ball rolled straight for the cup but lipped out and settled inches from the hole. Rahm lagged his putt up to the hole but not in. Both teams conceded their opponent’s par putts, a custom common to the Ryder Cup that never happens on the PGA Tour with individual stroke play scoring formats.
And so they were off with three more foursomes yet to take the tee.
Ryder Cup Scoring
Scoring in the Ryder Cup is based on holes won. Strokes are counted per hole, but the total score is reported as a single point for the winner of the hole. If both teams take the same number of strokes to hole out, then a half-point is awarded as the score for the hole.
If, after seven holes have been completed, Team USA won three holes while Team Europe won two and two were tied, the score would be reported as Team USA 1-Up or Team Europe 1-Down. If a team holds a lead big enough that their opponent cannot catch up with the number of holes remaining, the score is reported as won vs. holes to play. For example, one team leads by five holes with four to play would result in a final score of 5 and 4.
The winning twosome from each match is given one point in the team competition. The Ryder Cup is contested over 28 matches. So, to win the Cup, it takes a team score of 14 1/2 or more. If the competition ends tied 14-14, the Cup goes to the defending champion. As Team USA won the Cup in 2021, they retain it in the event of a tie. To win the Cup, you must outscore the current Ryder Cup holder.
Rahm and Hatton drew first blood with their birdie on the par four, third hole. Another birdie on the par four, fifth hole put the Europeans 2-Up. Scheffler and Burns clawed back to 1-Down with a birdie on the sixth. But, a birdie on the par three, seventh hole restored Team Europe’s two-hole lead.
A birdie on 11 and an eagle on the par five 12th gave Rahm and Hatton a commanding lead Team USA could not recover from. Scheffler and Burns only won the sixth hole. The score of 4 & 3 gave the Europeans their first point in the Team competition.
Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg (EUR) vs. Max Homa and Brian Harman (USA)
Match Two was a little more competitive the Europeans winning the first two holes, while the Americans won holes three and four. Hovland and Aberg won holes five and six. Followed by wins on nine and 14 to close out Homa and Harman 4 & 3 also.
Team Score: EUR 2 vs. USA 0
Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka (EUR) vs. Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa (USA)
Match Three featured an interesting paring for Team USA Fowler and Morikawa. They were down 5-1 after nine holes. Team USA got hot on the back nine, winning holes 10, 13, and 16. However, a bogey on the 14th allowed Lowry and Straka to win the hole with a par proved to be the downfall. Needing wins on 17 and 18, both teams scored a par three on 17. The Americans lost the match 2 & 1
Team Score: EUR 3 vs. USA 0
Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood (EUR) vs. Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay (USA)
The final match of the morning featured Europe’s “A” team of “Fleetwood Mac.” Wins on four and eight put them 2-Up. Schauffele and Cantlay won nine, 14, and 16, but the Europeans answered each with a win of their own. The third match in a row ended 2 and 1 for Team Europe, and the United States was in a massive hole after the conclusion of play Friday morning.
Team Score: EUR 4 vs. USA 0
Friday and Saturday afternoon matches at the Ryder Cup are played in four-ball format. Each of the four golfers plays their own ball through the conclusion of the hole. The best score between the four balls wins the hole.
Unfortunately, Team USA was unable to stop the blue tide wave that developed in the morning matches.
Hovland and Hatton (EUR) vs. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA)
The match ended in a tie, with both teams winning four holes each.
Team Score: EUR 4 1/2 vs. USA 1/2
Jon Rahm and Nicolai Hojgaard (EUR) vs. Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka (USA)
Also, a tie. Team USA led 5-4 after 17 holes. Koepka made a birdie on the Par-five 18th. Rahm eagled the hole to snatch a half-point away from the Americans.
Team Score: EUR 5 vs. USA 1
Robert MacIntyre and Justin Rose (EUR) vs. Homa and Wyndham Clark (USA)
Homa and Clark held a 2-Up lead after nine holes. They responded to a Team Europe win on the 10th with a win of their own on 13. They swapped hole wins, with 15 going to Europe and 16 going to the US. MacIntyre and Rose won the 17th and 18th holes to take another half-point away from the Americans.
Team Score: EUR 5 1/2 vs. USA 1 1/2
McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR) vs. Morikawa and Schauffele (USA)
The real punch in the gut to Team USA came in the final match of the day when Team Europe won holes two through seven to go 6-Up after nine holes. Morikawa and Schauffele won the 11th and 12th holes. But it was too little, too late. A birdie on the 15th by McIlroy closed out the Americans 5 & 3. However, Fitzpatrick was the one delivering the punch with birdies on two, three, and four, an eagle on hole five, and another birdie on the 6th. Of the seven holes the Europeans won, Fitzpatrick was responsible for five of them.
Team Score: EUR 6 1/2 vs. USA 1 1/2
The last time the Americans won a Ryder Cup on European soil was 1993. That 30-year drought is going to extend another two years if Team USA cannot reverse its fortunes on Saturday and draw within two points of Team Europe.