|Venue: Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome Dates: 29 Sep – 1 Oct|
|Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Sounds, live text updates on BBC Sport website and daily highlights on BBC2|
A shot at redemption. A 30-year unbeaten home record to defend. Galileo’s old stomping ground.
The 44th edition of the Ryder Cup gets under way in Rome on Friday morning as Europe attempt to regain the trophy and avenge their record defeat by the United States two years ago at Whistling Straits.
Luke Donald’s team will be aiming to record an eighth victory in 12 meetings for Europe at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
The United States’ last victory on European soil was in 1993, when they triumphed 15-13 at The Belfry, in England, with Europe winning the past six tournaments this side of the Atlantic.
A changing of the guard moment?
When Donald was confirmed as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain 13 months ago to replace Henrik Stenson who had chosen to join LIV Golf, there were huge questions regarding the composition of his team.
A deal has since been struck to end the split at the top of the men’s game but the fallout saw several veterans of the European side ruled ineligible to feature in Italy following their resignations from the DP World Tour.
Sergio Garcia, Europe’s record points scorer with 28½ from 10 appearances, and Ian Poulter, who won five of his seven starts, were among those on the outside but their advice has still been sought by Jon Rahm.
And while Lee Westwood and Paul Casey are also unavailable, Europe look as strong as ever.
Spain’s Rahm is the reigning Masters champion, while four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, FedEx Cup winner Viktor Hovland and 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick are all viewed as key figures.
The quartet sit second, third, fourth and eighth in the world rankings, with Tyrrell Hatton 11th and his fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood 13th.
The 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry will look to rediscover his best form on his first Ryder Cup appearance on his home continent.
Meanwhile, the selection of Ludvig Aberg – who only turned professional in June and becomes the first player to appear at a Ryder Cup without ever competing in a major championship – has added a further sprinkling of excitement.
Former US Open champion Justin Rose makes his sixth appearance as Robert MacIntyre, Nicolai Hojgaard and Sepp Straka prepare for debuts.
Stellar US team aim to end winning drought in Europe
The US arrive in Rome brimming with confidence on the back of the crushing win in Wisconsin as they try to arrest a lengthy run of failures on European soil.
Brooks Koepka, a five-time major winner and the current holder of the US PGA Championship, is included in Zach Johnson’s American team, although he is the only LIV player to feature.
Because LIV players were unable to pick up Ryder Cup qualification points outside of the majors, they were relying on being named as one of captain Zach Johnson’s six wildcard picks.
Koepka, who also finished runner-up at Augusta in April, was the only one to receive a call and there is a feeling that the US team will be weakened more than Europe by those LIV players that have missed out.
Dustin Johnson has been their top points scorer in two of the past five editions, including winning all five matches last time out, while Patrick Reed contributed the most points in 2014 and 2016.
Bryson DeChambeau, who has won twice on the LIV circuit this year, including last week in Chicago, is also missing, despite insisting he was worthy of consideration.
“If you look at it, it would have been nice to at least just have a call. There’s numerous people that I think Zach should have called out here, and we didn’t get that,” DeChambeau said.
Phil Mickelson, who has a record 12 Ryder Cup appearances and was vice-captain two years ago, and Tiger Woods, who has not played competitive golf since withdrawing with injury from the Masters in April after two rounds, are also not involved in any capacity.
However, such is the strength in depth at Johnson’s disposal, Cameron Young and Keegan Bradley, ranked 15th and 18th in the world respectively, have also been overlooked.
World number one Scottie Scheffler leads a stellar US cast, with their four debutants all enjoying success over the past year.
Scheffler’s good friend and likely playing partner this week Sam Burns won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in March and is considered one of the best players on the PGA Tour with a putter in his hands.
Brian Harman won The Open at Royal Liverpool in July, Wyndham Clark was successful at this year’s US Open and Max Homa, who won at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, is the world number seven.
Johnson’s side has also won 15 combined majors to Europe’s nine and an average world ranking of 12.9 in comparison with 29.25.
Will the course provide home comforts?
As expected, everything about this Ryder Cup oozes quintessential Italy, from the rolling countryside to the 300,000-year-old fossils in the catacombs below the remains of the 11th-century castle just behind the fifth hole.
The estate, which is steeped in history, comes with a grove of olive trees and was also once the home of astronomer Galileo, and there are panoramic views of central Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City from five holes around the course.
Those include the 11th and 16th as well as the 597-yard 18th, which is the longest closing par five in Ryder Cup history.
The 7,181-yard course contains around 170 feet of elevation change and penal knee-deep rough, which will cause anyone veering off the pristine fairways significant problems.
In theory, it is a track that should favour the hosts, with its appearance not unlike several other European venues in recent years where the key to success has been accuracy over long hitting. Although, it has been pointed out by several players this week, that advantage is lessening with more of the Europeans playing on the American-based PGA Tour.
However, for those who still predominantly play on the DP World Tour, an element of local knowledge will come into play.
Europe has two Italian Open winners, Hojgaard (2021) and MacIntyre, who beat team-mate Fitzpatrick in a play-off in 2022, in its ranks, although Poland’s Adrian Meronk, the most recent European winner here in May, was, to his surprise, not selected among Donald’s six wildcard picks for his 12-man team.
McIlroy, Hatton and Fleetwood have also all had top-10 finishes at the course that resides to the north east of the ‘Eternal City’, while nobody on the US team had even played it until their scouting trip earlier this month.
What’s the format?
The Ryder Cup is a matchplay event where the players go head to head against their opponents, which is different to most weeks for the players, who contest strokeplay events on their respective PGA and DP World Tours.
It is played over three days with four foursomes (alternate shot) and four fourballs (each golfer plays their own ball with the best score counting) matches played on both Friday and Saturday, followed by the 12 singles matches on Sunday.
With one point available for each match, there are 28 points to be played for over the week. As defending champions, the US need 14 points to retain the Ryder Cup. Europe require 14½ to regain the trophy.
The order of play during the first two days of competition was determined by the home team captain Donald.
The contest, which will be attended by about 55,000 spectators each day, will begin on Friday with four foursomes matches at 06:35 BST, with fourball matches in the afternoon.
It will be the first time Europe have elected to start a home match with foursomes since 1993. Before the action starts, the event formally began with an opening ceremony on Thursday.
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