Rome, world epicenter of golf. The war of the worlds in the majestic field of Marco Simone. Europe against the United States, the Ryder Cup. The 12 best golfers from each part of the ocean in a unique competition, as beautiful and passionate as the Italian capital. The biggest event on the planet of golf, and one of the great historical events of the sport, concentrated in three intense days, from this Friday (starting at 7:30, Movistar Golf) until Sunday. Ahead, two rounds on Friday and Saturday of duels in pairs in the modalities of foursomes (each pair plays a ball with alternating strokes) and fourballs (each player with his ball) and the 12 decisive individual clashes of the last day.
Face to face, two battalions of stars. The 12 US pawns are among the 25 best cards in the world ranking, six of them in the top ten, with Scottie Scheffler sitting on the throne. Europe is also high with a trio of figures in the second, third and fourth step of the ranking: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland, recent winner of the FedEx Cup as the leader of the season on the American circuit. In the troop captained by Luke Donald, the Swede Ludvig Aberg appears in 80th place, the big surprise on the guest list just 76 days and nine tournaments after (with a victory) turning professional. And the Danish Nicolai Hojgaard marks the lowest point in the ranking among those gathered in Rome, at place 82.
The Ryder was, is and will always be Seve, and the memory and spirit of the Cantabrian genius is breathed in every corner of the European locker room. Framed there is the last polo shirt that Ballesteros wore as a player in this competition that he took to the skies in 1995. “It is part of the essence of the Ryder, we must keep it in mind,” says Rahm. The strength of the team above egos is the key to achieving glory. That was Seve’s great legacy, inherited by Chema Olazabal, captain in the unforgettable Medinah 2012 comeback and today vice-captain, and continued by Sergio García and the Basque player. Europe comes together in a formation with four Englishmen and a representative from Northern Ireland, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Austria, Denmark and Sweden. Between all of them, an average age of 30.1 years and nine majors in the record (four from McIlroy and two from Rahm; seven golfers in white in the Grand Slam). The continental team unites the oldest of this edition (Justin Rose, 43) and the two youngest (Hojgaard, 22, and Aberg, 23). In the United States, the same youth (30.3 years on average) but more carats: 15 grand, five from Brooks Koepka.
“The best thing is walking into the team room and seeing all these great golfers come together and really form a team, be friends and have a special, unique bond throughout the week. Those memories will last a lifetime and the bonds will become even stronger,” explains Rahm in his third participation in the Ryder. “In the first one I didn’t ask a single question, he was as quiet as one can be,” he remembers about an event, Paris 2018, which closed by defeating the myth Tiger Woods. Barrika’s is today a totem of the European team in its attempt to return the cup to continental soil after the resounding American victory in the 2021 Wisconsin tournament (19-9).
History smiles on Europe in this Golf World Cup. Since it stopped being a duel only open to British golfers in 1979, European boys have won the trophy 11 times, compared to their rivals nine. And the streak sharpens in the most recent past: Europe has won seven of the last 10 editions and has not lost at home since 1993 in The Belfry (England). There are now six consecutive crowns at home.
The Ryder shines in all its splendor despite the storm that has hit golf in recent months due to the conflict between the major circuits and the groundbreaking Saudi league. Punished by the lack of points in the world ranking, only the American Koepka enlists in Rome among all those who changed sides and embraced petrodollars. His victory this year in a major tournament, the PGA Championship, boosted his ranking and earned him a plane ticket.
The big absentee is Sergio García, who is a legend in the Ryder, the competition’s all-time top scorer with 28.5 points. The man from Castellón tried to reach an agreement with the European circuit and pay the fines for his escape to the Saudi league, and thus be able to be invited by the captain to this event, but the tour closed its doors to him after he had renounced membership. Despite the announced future peace agreement, the wounds remain open, as McIlroy made clear: “They will miss not being here more than we will miss them.”
Jon Rahm telephoned Sergio García on Monday. He misses him as a dance partner (he will play this Friday with Tyrrell Hatton against Scheffler and Burns in the foursomes, at 7:35) and wanted to at least take advantage of their advice, “incalculable information.” Rahm has assumed that leadership from García and is ready to serve his talent and drive to the team. “Now I am not the center of attention, nor are the other players. “It is about Europe and the United States, it is something bigger than us,” says the Basque; “This week is so incredible that I would pay to be here.”
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes in Facebook y Xclick here to receive our weekly newsletter.