Ryder Cup preview: Golf’s most highly anticipated event returns

Having been comprehensively dispatched 19-9 two years ago, Team Europe seek revenge this Friday, as the 44th edition of the Ryder Cup arrives at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome.

Every two years, a team of Europe’s best golfers is pitted against a team of the America’s best, in a three-day contest involving pairings – known as four-balls and foursomes formats – and singles matches, bringing golf fans together as the elite of the sport go head-to-head in a battle for the historic Ryder Cup.

Since the turn of the century, the Ryder Cup has belonged in European hands for seven of the 10 editions of the contest. However, with the US now reigning champions following their dominant home victory at Whistling Straits two years ago, all eyes are on whether they can retain the cup this year.

With this year’s edition just the third time the event will be played in continental Europe, it will be a fascinating and enthralling occasion, with fans from around the world coming together for one of the best atmosphere’s that sport has to offer.

Captains Luke Donald (Europe) and Zach Johnson (United States) announced their picks just four weeks ago; players that did not enter their teams via the six automatic places were chosen at the captain’s discretion.

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Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and two-time Major winner Jon Rahm are the major headlines on the European team and, alongside Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose, they make up a strong leadership group of seasoned Ryder Cup veterans.

To successfully earn the cup back, this leadership group will be crucial to help harness the talented rookies in the squad, with Ludwig Aberg, Nicolai Hojgaard and Robert MacIntyre playing their first ever Ryder Cup’s this year.

Completing the squad is the highly skilled Norwegian, Viktor Hovland, who took the spotlight in the PGA Tour’s playoff finale, winning two of the three playoff events and securing the coveted FedEx Cup as a result of his efforts. On a remarkable run of form, Hovland is definitely one to watch.

On the US side, captain Johnson is looking replicate Steve Stricker’s efforts two years ago, compiling a team full of headline names; with world No.1 Scottie Scheffler leading the line after his remarkably dominant year on the PGA Tour this year, statistically amongst the most dominant years golf has ever seen.

Likewise with Europe, there is a strong leadership group, with Patrick Cantlay, LIV golfer Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth among the older and more experienced players in the side, backed up by Colin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas, who are part of eight players returning from the team’s victorious 2021 campaign.

In terms of Ryder Cup experience, the US team does include four rookies – but unlike the European team, who have more youthful debutants like Aberg and Hojgaard, the Americans lacking Ryder Cup experience have a wealth of golfing experience.

Brian Harman (36), Max Homa (32), Wyndham Clark (29) and Sam Burns (27), are all highly skilled golfers who will create massive questions for the Europeans to answer.

Luke Donald hinted this week that Team Europe may break recent traditions by playing the Foursomes format – where each teams’ duo alternates shots – ahead of the Fourballs format – where each player has their own ball and the best outcome for each team is scored, undoubtedly a theme to keep an eye on for Friday and Saturday’s sessions.

But, despite potential changes for Friday and Saturday, Sunday will still host the traditional singles format, just as in the ladies’ Solheim Cup. If this week has anywhere near as competitive a finale as we saw last week, golf fans will be in for a treat.

Marco Simone successfully won the rights to host this year’s Ryder Cup in 2015 and underwent a significant redesign in 2018, focused on creating a golf course specifically with the drama of match play in mind by providing numerous risk and reward opportunities.

In Rome this week, Europe will be confident of a bounce-back victory with the US having not won on European soil since 1993. However, that victory meant the US retained the cup, having won it back in the previous edition of the contest in 1991.

With the US victorious at home two years ago in 2021, will history repeat itself 30 years on?

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