When the Ryder Cup comes to Europe, the home team has been unbeatable.
Tommy Fleetwood of England landed the decisive blow Sunday afternoon for Team Europe to finally vanquish the United States team and win the 44th Ryder Cup 16 1/2-11 1/2 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside Rome.
Europe has claimed eight of the last 11 Ryder Cups, as the Americans failed to end a Ryder Cup road drought that dates to 1993.
“Proud, proud, proud moment for me. They play for more than themselves, they play together,” emotional Team Europe captain Luke Donald said in a post-match TV interview.
Team Europe led 10 1/2-5 1/2 entering Sunday’s 12 singles matches needing four points to win, with the U.S. team required to get 8 1/2 points to retain the cup.
After falling behind 14-7 Sunday, the U.S. had to sweep the final seven matches of the day. Brooks Koepka finished off Swedish rookie Ludvig Aberg 3 and 2, and Max Homa made a massive decision at the 18th hole that paid off to preserve a 1-up win over Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick.
Xander Schauffele defeated Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard 3 and 2, but the Americans’ faint hopes fell apart when Rickie Fowler, 1 down to Fleetwood, cut his drive into the water at the short par-4 16th.
Fleetwood’s ensuing drive rolled to 23 feet from the flagstick. His eagle putt was short, but Fowler conceded the birdie, ensuring Europe would gain at least half a point from the match. Fleetwood made it official on the next hole, winning 3 and 1 for Europe’s 15th point.
“I didn’t think it was going to go down to the back end,” Fleetwood said. “Just to have played a part in it all this week, in particular today. I wasn’t really planning on it coming down to us but I always had it in my mind. It was pretty nervy coming down to the last few.”
The Americans needed a record comeback Sunday to retain the cup; the largest Sunday rally in Ryder Cup history belongs to the 1999 U.S. team, from four points down.
“I think the European team played phenomenal golf. I think it truly is that simple. I think my guys showed true heart, true grit,” U.S. captain Zach Johnson said post-match, choking up with emotion. “I’m honoured to represent my country. I’ll do the interviews, I’ll do the media, I’ll take the burden. I’ll take my 12 any Cup.”
Europe’s “big three” -- Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Jon Rahm of Spain and Viktor Hovland of Norway -- combined to earn 2 1/2 points early in the day. Tyrrell Hatton of England beat Brian Harman 3 and 2 to bring Europe to 14 points before the Americans found ways to stay afloat.
Homa was 1 up on Fitzpatrick at the par-5 18th when both players missed to the right of the green on their second shots. While Fitzpatrick chipped on, Homa’s ball was so buried in the tall, snaking rough that he took an unplayable lie and yielded a penalty stroke.
It was the right decision. Homa chipped it to 7 1/2 feet with his fourth shot, Fitzpatrick missed a birdie putt that would have won the cup and Homa converted the must-have par to preserve the full U.S. point.
“(Caddie) Joe Greiner’s the brains, I just swing it,” said Homa, who led the U.S. this week with a 3-1-1 record. “That was an awful break. I don’t know how (his second shot) didn’t get into the bunker, and I was frustrated, my head was spinning. (Greiner) said, ‘We’re gonna take an unplayable here, you’re gonna chip it down to 10 feet, and you’re gonna make it.’”
McIlroy led all players in the 2023 event, winning four of a possible five points. He cruised past Sam Burns 3 and 1 after Rahm had tied Scottie Scheffler in a back-and-forth match.
“I was so disappointed after Whistling Straits. We all were,” McIlroy said, referencing the Americans’ 19-9 win in 2021. “And we wanted to come here to Rome this year and redeem ourselves a bit. We’ve got some fresh blood on the team that I think has worked really, really well.”
Hovland scored the first point of the day by soundly defeating Collin Morikawa 4 and 3. Hovland went 3-1-1 for the competition, the only European player besides McIlroy (4-1-0) to play all five sessions this weekend.
Cantlay staved off determined Englishman Justin Rose 2 and 1 for the Americans’ first full point of the day. Cantlay denied a report from Sky Sports the previous day that the U.S. team room was “fractured” as Cantlay declined to wear the team’s hat in protest of not getting paid for his services this week.
“I just try to use it as fuel,” Cantlay said of the adversity in Rome. “You know, you can take all that energy and turn it into focus and turn it into good adrenaline. That’s what I tried to do this week.”
Cantlay also made a 43-foot birdie putt Saturday to win his four-ball match. His efforts were not enough to beat a European side led by Englishman Donald, who replaced Henrik Stenson of Sweden as captain 14 months before the competition due to Stenson joining LIV Golf.
“All of Team Europe, we obviously play for each other, and that’s such a massive strength for us and our unity,” Fleetwood said. “And one step above that is Luke, and we all wanted to do it for him.”
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