Team Europe fend off American fightback to lift Ryder Cup

Fleetwood provides finishing touch as Europeans clinch memorable victory in Italy

Europe captain Luke Donald lifts the Ryder Cup after beating the USA at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome on October 1, 2023. Getty
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Team Europe survived a determined American fightback in the singles to secure the four points needed to reclaim the Ryder Cup with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood sealing victory in a nervy finale at the Marco Simone Golf Club near Rome on Sunday.

The Americans began the day attempting to pull off the biggest final round comeback in Ryder Cup history having been outplayed for most of the previous two days of action in Italy.

However, hauling back a five-point deficit proved beyond them, despite a spirited rally which ensured some of the late jeopardy which has been the hallmark of the competition over the years.

Fleetwood made it mathematically certain that the trophy would return to Europe when opponent Rickie Fowler, who had found the water from the tee, conceded the 16th hole to leave him two up with two to play. Fleetwood then completed a 3&1 victory as Europe extended their now 30-year unbeaten record on home soil and avenged the record 19-9 humbling they endured at Whistling Straits in 2021.

While the final score was 16½-11½, Sunday's concluding round of singles matches was far more stressful than Europe captain Luke Donald might have imagined.

“They put up a fight today so hats off to them, but I am so proud of my 12 guys,” said Donald, 45, who only found himself in the role after the defection of Henrik Stenson to LIV Golf.

“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?”

Key to Europe's success was Rory McIlroy, who cried tears of joy instead of disappointment like he had done at Whistling Straits.

McIlroy contributed a career-best performance with his singles victory over Sam Burns meaning he won four matches in the biennial contest for the first time.

Viktor Hovland had put the first point on the board with victory over Collin Morikawa before Jon Rahm birdied the 18th to snatch half a point from the opening contest with world No 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Patrick Cantlay then held off a battling Justin Rose to narrow the gap, but McIlroy defeated World Match Play champion Burns 3&1 and Tyrrell Hatton beat Open champion Brian Harman 3&2 to take Europe to within half a point of victory.

They were made to wait as victories for Brooks Koepka, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele kept the contest alive, before Fleetwood intervened.

McIlroy felt he had let his teammates down two years ago after suffering three heavy defeats before beating Schauffele in the singles, after which he broke down in tears during a television interview and admitted he could not wait for a shot at redemption in Rome.

The four-time major winner won his first three matches at Marco Simone but lost the final fourball on Saturday evening and was involved in an angry exchange with Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava over his celebrations which spilt over into the car park.

“I needed that to fuel me today and not let it take away from what has been a great week,” McIlroy said.

“I felt like I used it to my advantage and came out with a different level of focus and determination and in a way it gave the whole team a bit of fire in our bellies.”

McIlroy had to fight back tears before he added: “I just wanted to win another point for Europe. Ever since Whistling Straits I was so disappointed in my performance there, so to come here and get four points for the team means a lot to me.

“It’s a great bounce back after Whistling Straits. The team we have is incredible. It’s a young team that I think will be around for a long time.”

Rahm admitted he was extremely aware of the significance of his match against Scheffler, who had suffered a 9&7 thrashing alongside Koepka in the Saturday foursomes.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to look but it’s hard not to see the scoreboards,” said Rahm, who two-putted from 90 feet for birdie on the 18th after Scheffler hit a clumsy chip over the green.

“I’m sitting looking at my putt [on 18] and the scoreboards are right in my way. So it’s hard not to catch yourself lingering.

“But I think I did a really good job at the end. Seeing those scores I refocused on the task at hand and played good at end. Too bad it wasn’t good enough to win but I’ll take a half.”

Updated: October 01, 2023, 4:20 PM