Former Ryder Cup captain and player Sam Torrance reflects on a European win over the USA in Rome that suggests a bright future for the team and skipper Luke Donald.
Marco Simone was a perfect balance between risk and reward, conditions in Rome were beautiful, the crowd was as good as I’ve ever heard and I can’t say enough good things about the European team. This was an extraordinary Ryder Cup, and the celebrations on the team bus looked like great fun too.
The way Europe started, by sweeping the first session 4-0, was beyond belief and set the tone for the week. As usual, it got a little smelly during the singles on Sunday and suddenly the Americans had more than a glimmer of a chance. Far dos to them, they made a match of it. But the incredible thing is Europe still tied the singles session on the way to winning 16.5-11.5.
Captain Luke Donald got his tactics spot on. In the end it wasn’t even brave, just great decision making, from starting with foursomes to resting Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton on Saturday afternoon so that they were raring to go on Sunday. You don’t get to No1 in the world without having character and Donald showed bags of that in Rome.
There may be an opening for him to lead the team again at Bethpage Black in 2025, partly because Europe have lost some other potential captains. Justin Rose would be an obvious contender, however he may want to play the next. But Donald would be a fine choice. The players love him and he knows all about playing in the US.
My highlight of the weekend was Tommy Fleetwood’s tee shot at 16 on Sunday. Having just watched Rickie Fowler find the water, he hit the shot of his life onto the green to effectively secure the Ryder Cup. It was a fitting moment for someone who has become a key man. Fleetwood played some great golf, spoke well and was a good partner for Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy certainly got the redemption he was seeking after the disappointment of Whistling Straits two years ago. For a player as great as he is, that must have hurt. But he used it as fuel to top score with four points, and it might have been more but for Patrick Cantlay’s wonderful putt at the 18th in the Saturday fourballs.
What followed Cantlay’s putt only fired up Europe even more. His caddie Joe LaCava’s interference with McIlroy as he lined up his shot was so out of order it was outrageous. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy than Joe but he got caught up in the moment and if anyone should have known better then it was him.
The US team started very slowly, looking short of confidence and match practice. Most of them hadn’t played competitively for weeks, which is probably not the best preparation, but they did get going and when they did Cantlay and Max Homa in particular were outstanding.
Europe’s win was a real team effort, but there were some outstanding individual performances, such as Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton. I was so pleased for Bob MacIntyre winning 2.5 points on his debut. He is someone I’ve got to know a wee bit and I loved seeing him celebrate by belting out the Proclaimers on that team bus.
This was the start of a new era for the team, an enforced changing of the guard, and it was great to see the rookies play with such courage. Europe haven’t won in the US since Medinah in 2012 so Bethpage will be tough, but Rome can only give them confidence and the likes of Ludvig Aberg will be two years older and better, so who knows?
Sam Torrance OBE is a former Ryder Cup-winning captain and one of Europe’s most successful golfers. Follow him @torrancesam