Luke Donald puts faith in rookies for opening foursomes as Europe eye Ryder Cup revenge

Captain picks Ludvig Aberg and Sepp Straka for opening session against USA in Rome on Friday

Europe's Ludvig Aberg poses for a selfie with fans during a practice round prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club. Getty
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The motivational language being used may vary but Europe's players have made it clear that they are very much united in their quest to regain the Ryder Cup.

English duo Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick have spoken of revenge – countryman Tommy Fleetwood preferred the word “motivated” while Rory McIlroy went with “determined”.

In Whistling Straits two years ago, Europe found themselves on the wrong end of a record-breaking 19-9 defeat – the largest ever margin of victory in the current 28-point format, which began in 1979.

Now the tournament returns to European shores and Luke Donald's team will be aiming to maintain a 30-year unbeaten home record at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

Donald has shown faith in two of his rookies for the opening session of what is the 44th Ryder Cup. While the pairings of Jon Rahm and Hatton and McIlroy and Fleetwood came as no surprise, Donald also sent out Ludvig Aberg and Sepp Straka in the foursomes.

Rahm and Hatton face world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns in the first match, with Aberg and Viktor Hovland up against Max Homa and Open champion Brian Harman.

Straka and Shane Lowry were paired in the third game versus Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa, with McIlroy and Fleetwood up against arguably the USA’s strongest pair in Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

“We had a pretty good plan in place. It was always going to be a plan that could change, but I didn’t really need to,” said Donald, who also revealed he will use all 12 players on the opening day. “I haven’t given the US pairings much thought to be honest. Nothing surprises me.”

Englishman Hatton, whose opening match is set to tee-off at 9.35am (UAE), did not hide one of his motivating factors going into the tournament. “Ultimately deep down you want to get some revenge. We have a fantastic team and we will be trying our best to make that happen,” he told

“You don’t want to be trying too hard, so you give it 100 per cent but being aware of not trying to force the issue and be natural.

“I’m not one to usually fist pump after putts unless they have true meaning but the Ryder Cup is different so on the positive side you will see more [from me] for sure.”

In the second foursomes, World No 4 Viktor Hovland and talk of the town Aberg – the 23-year-old Swede who only turned professional in June – face newcomers Homa and Harmon.

Hovland, who bagged a sensational hole-in-one albatross on the par four 5th hole during practice on Thursday, also feels Europe have a point to prove after their thrashing last time out. “We all have a bit of a chip on our shoulder, we want to show what we can do,” he said.

“I am sure the Americans think they can show up here and do the same thing again but we’re going to do everything we can to stop that."

Meanwhile, US captain Zach Johnson left out two of his own picks in Jordan Spieth and, more contentiously, Justin Thomas, despite the two forging an impressive Ryder Cup partnership in previous editions.

“The gist of it is we have only 12 guys and unfortunately I can’t play all 12 each session so at some point someone has to sit,” he said.

“It’s a golf course which demands a lot out of you physically, I think it’s an ideal situation where you don’t necessarily play everyone all five sessions.

“The eight guys I have down on paper I feel put us in the best position to get us off to a great start.

“There is a lot of things I’d like to keep internal, but I have the utmost confidence in these eight and the utmost confidence in Jordan and Justin."

Friday morning's foursomes (where players alternate shot) will followed in the afternoon four fourballs matches. Saturday sees two more sessions of the team clashes before Sunday's 12 singles brings proceedings to a close.

Updated: September 28, 2023, 3:48 PM