Sport

GOLF

Fleetwood secures Ryder Cup for Europe after brave US fightback

Fleetwood secures Ryder Cup for Europe after brave US fightback
Captain of Team Europe Luke Donald (centre) and his players with the 2023 Ryder Cup trophy after a 16½-11½ victory over the US at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome on 1 October 2023. (Photo: Andrew Redington / Getty Images)

Europe regained the Ryder Cup in Rome after needing four points from Sunday’s 12 singles to continue their incredible 30-year unbeaten home record.

Europe withstood a fierce American fightback to secure the four points required to reclaim the Ryder Cup with England’s Tommy Fleetwood sealing the deal in a nerve-jangling climax on Sunday, 1 October.

The Americans, attempting the biggest final-day comeback in the history of the biennial event, finally found their mojo after being outplayed and outfought for two days at the Marco Simone course.

Hauling back a daunting five-point deficit proved beyond them, however, and Fleetwood made sure the trophy would return to Europe when his opponent Rickie Fowler conceded the 16th hole to leave the Briton two up with two to play and guaranteed a half point.

ryder cup europe

From left: Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy of Team Europe celebrate victory on the 18th green following the Sunday singles matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. (Photo: Naomi Baker / Getty Images)

Fleetwood duly completed a 3&1 victory, but the celebrations had already started as Europe extended their 30-year unbeaten home record against the Americans and avenged the record 19-9 thrashing they endured at Whistling Straits in 2021.

Although the final score was a comfortable-looking 16½-11½ with the gap the same as at the start of the 12 singles, there were moments when a US win looked possible.

“It was stressful as the Americans put up a fight today, so hats off to them. But I am so proud of my 12 guys,” said Europe skipper Luke Donald, whose team seized control of the 44th Ryder Cup on Friday with a 4-0 sweep of the morning foursomes.

“We started off great, which was what we needed. Then a few matches changed to red. We kept looking at the board and thinking, where will we find 14 and a half points? 

“But we always had some guys at the back that looked good.”

‘Amazing feeling after an amazing pressure’

The 32-year-old Fleetwood, who picked up three points from his four matches, had not expected to be the centre of attention but was ready when his moment came.

“I’d have rather not been in that situation,” he said. “I didn’t want it to come down to one of us at the back.

“I was feeling pretty sick taking the tee shot on 16. It is never nice to watch somebody’s ball sail into the water, but I still had to set up and hit a shot.

“It is an amazing feeling after an amazing pressure.”

Ultimately, the Americans paid for a woeful start in which they failed to win a match on the opening day. But they left with pride restored.

“My competitive juices are flowing too much to function right now,” said American captain Zach Johnson, who was criticised for his selections.

“We’ll analyse it. I’m not making excuses. Europe outplayed us.”

Donald had top-loaded his singles order to try to get the job done early with world number three Jon Rahm, number four Viktor Hovland and number two Rory McIlroy, who was involved in unsavoury scenes the night before, out in the opening four matches.

Unstoppable Hovland

Norway’s Hovland, outstanding throughout the three days, was unstoppable as he finished off Collin Morikawa on the 15th green for a 4&3 victory which included seven birdies.

In the top match, Spain’s Masters champion Rahm and world number one Scottie Scheffler slugged out a gladiatorial contest, which ended tied as Rahm left a long-distance putt stone dead to win the 18th hole after Scheffler fluffed a green-side chip.

Scheffler had been in tears the day before after a record 9&7 defeat in the foursomes alongside Brooks Koepka but rebounded with brilliant golf.

“We needed to rally around something; we were getting our butts kicked to start the day,” Scheffler told reporters.

ryder cup europe

Rory McIlroy of Team Europe celebrates winning his match on the 17th green during the Sunday singles matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. (Photo: Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

McIlroy, playing in his seventh Ryder Cup, beat dogged rookie Sam Burns 3&1 to earn his fourth point out of five this week and 18th in his Ryder Cup career.

Elsewhere, however, the Americans were painting the scoreboard red with Patrick Cantlay, whose heroics in a stormy fourballs on Saturday gave his team hope, beating Justin Rose 2&1.

With the US leading several matches the pressure was building, but Englishman Tyrrell Hatton proved impervious to it, completing a 3&2 victory over British Open champion Brian Harman to leave Europe half a point from glory.

But Johnson’s Americans were not finished.

Koepka beat young Swede Ludvig Aberg before Max Homa survived a tension-riddled 18th hole to hang on for a 1-up win over Matt Fitzpatrick, who had the chance to deliver the half point needed, only to miss an 18-foot birdie putt.

When Xander Schauffele beat Nicolai Hojgaard to make it 14-10, every shot suddenly took on huge significance.

Fowler drove his tee shot into water at the par-four 16th, and when Fleetwood drove the green, Europe could breathe easy.

Fleetwood had two putts from three feet to win the hole, but when Fowler did not make him finish off, the 32-year-old Englishman threw his arms skywards in relief.

Once the finishing touches had been completed, the party could begin in earnest, although American thoughts were already turning to Bethpage in 2025.

“It will be significantly different,” Fowler said. Reuters/DM

‘Relief, pride, joy’ – Europe players feel all the emotions

Quotes from European players following their singles matches on Sunday, the final day of the Ryder Cup at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, as Europe reclaimed the trophy with a 16½-11½ victory.

Europe captain, Luke Donald

Europe captain Luke Donald, speaking to Sky Sports: “I am pretty emotional. It’s been a long process, an amazing journey and I have really enjoyed this one.

“It was stressful as the US put up a fight today so hats off to them. But I am so proud of my 12 guys. We formed a bond from day one and they gave me everything. They trusted me and they delivered for me.

“We started off great, which was what we needed. Then a few matches changed to red. We kept looking at the board and thinking, where will we find 14 and a half points?

“But we always had some guys at the back that looked good so it’s not going to be quite as close as I thought it might be. I can’t even speak.”

Rory McIlroy after winning 3&1 against Sam Burns

“I was so disappointed after (the 2021 European defeat in) Whistling Straits. We all were. And we wanted to come here to Rome this year and redeem ourselves a bit. We’ve got some fresh blood on the team that I think has worked really, really well.”

Tommy Fleetwood after securing the Ryder Cup for Europe with a 3&1 victory over Rickie Fowler

“Just to be a part of it is the most amazing experience. I’m quite relieved – I was so happy to see that tee shot on 16. Relief, pride, joy and so pleased I’ve been able to be a part of it. Luke [Donald] has been so good this week; he’s on another level and I’m so pleased we could get it done for him”.

“They’re [the fans] the absolute best; they’ve carried us on their shoulders. We gave them a lot to cheer about but they pushed us over the line when we needed it.” DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.