This year’s Ryder Cup has not been without excitement, both on the course and off it. Between ‘hatgate’ causing a dispute which nearly became a physical fight, and the controversial situation with the availability of LIV Golf players, the 44th Ryder Cup has been one to remember before you even think about the tremendous golf which was played.
Based at the Marco Simone golf club in Rome, with its grandstands and clever contouring, the course truly felt as though it was a stadium, and the atmosphere which this created was easily felt.
Following a heavy defeat two years ago in Wisconsin, Team Europe were determined to regain the trophy on home soil. On paper, Team America may have seemed stronger, with five of the past six major winners among their squad of twelve. However, Team Europe included the likes of world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, and world No. 3 Jon Rahm, with Luke Donald at the helm. The skipper showed his fervour with his speech at the opening ceremony, which he started in Italian, and the confidence which he inspired was apparent throughout the weekend.
After leading his team to a 16 ½ – 11 ½ victory, there were chants from his teammates for Donald to stay on for another two years and lead them in the 2025 Ryder Cup which will take place in New York.
In comparison to Team Europe’s very united front, there were rumours of fractures in the American camp. It was reported that Patrick Cantley was not wearing a USA cap in protest over not being paid to play. This has since been denied multiple times, but it led to one of the most memorable moments of the tournament. The European crowd were already riled up, and when Cantley came to the 16th hole on Saturday afternoon, he was met by a frenzy of fans waving their hats at him. While they were clearly meaning to distract him, or put him off his game, they seemed to do the complete opposite. He proceeded to pull off the unbelievable by putting the next three holes for birdies. In response to his incredible 43-foot putt on the 18th hole, the American team seemed to be sent into their own hat-waving craze. Joe LaCava, Cantlay’s caddie, seemed to step over the line by waving his hat at Rory McIlroy who was trying to line up his own birdie putt which would have halved the very tense match.
In the evening after the match, McIlroy confronted the American team, and later told BBC Sport Northern Ireland that they ‘felt disrespected on that last green’ and that he thought the behaviour was ‘disgraceful’. The European team didn’t let it affect them though, and if anything were motivated by the situation.
This wasn’t the only big talking point throughout the weekend though. Conversation seemed to keep coming back to the competition between the Ryder Cup and LIV Golf. LIV Golf is the new Saudi-backed tour which promises huge sums to players who join it. However, there have been questions as to whether this is a big enough compensation for missing huge moments like the Ryder Cup as for European players, they can’t play in both. For Team USA, LIV players are eligible, but only through being picked by the captain, as they are unable to qualify by points.
All in all, despite controversies and talking points, this year’s Ryder Cup was a huge success, and Adare Manor, near Limerick in Ireland, has a lot to live up to when they host in four years time. With regards to 2025 Ryder Cup in New York, we will have to wait and see if winning away from home will once again become possible, something which hasn’t been done since Europe’s ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012.
Image: Scottish Government via Wikipedia Commons