GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — What started as a friendly golf exhibition nearly 100 years ago is anything but that now.
The Ryder Cup has become the biggest spectacle in golf, held once every two years between the United States and Europe for nothing more than bragging rights and ownership of a 17-inch gold trophy. Seth Waugh, the CEO at the PGA of America, referred to the Ryder Cup as a “combination of the Olympics and the Super Bowl and a (Rolling) Stones concert.”
While the United States has a 27-14-2 lead in the series dating to 1927, Europe has a 11-9-1 edge going back to 1979 when continental Europe was invited to join players from Britain and Ireland.
The Americans have not won on European soil in 30 years. This could be their best chance to end that drought, coming off a 19-9 mauling in 2021 at Whistling Straits. Of course, they say that every time the Ryder Cup comes to Europe. And the gold trophy never seems to go home with them.
WHEN AND WHERE IS THE RYDER CUP
The Ryder Cup starts Friday through Sunday at Marco Simone outside Rome.
This is only the third Ryder Cup to be held in continental Europe since European players were invited to play in 1979. The others were at Valderrama in Spain in 1997 and Le Golf National in France in 2018.
FORMAT AND SCHEDULE
The teams will play four matches of fourballs (better ball) and four matches of foursomes (alternate shot) on Friday and Saturday, followed by 12 singles matches on Sunday. With 28 points available, the Americans as the defending champion need 14 points to retain the cup.
It starts Friday morning with foursomes, and that’s a surprise because Europe has chosen to start with fourballs at home every time dating to 1993. European captain Luke Donald says statistics indicate Europe is strong in that format. He wants to get off to a good start.
HOW TO WATCH
NBC Universal and Sky Sports provide wall-to-wall television of the coverage. For American fans, that means getting up early on the East Coast.
USA Network will carry the opening day of foursomes and fourballs from 1:30 a.m. until noon Eastern. On Saturday, USA Network will broadcast team sessions from 1:30 to 3 a.m., and then NBC Sports will pick up coverage until noon. For the Sunday singles, NBC will start coverage at 5:30 a.m. until its conclusion, expected to be around 1 p.m.
In Europe, Sky Sports will have coverage from the start to the end of the matches each day.
TEAM USA VS. TEAM EUROPE
Zach Johnson is the U.S. captain. The Americans return seven players from the 2021 team that handed Europe its worst loss — Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. The four Ryder Cup rookies are U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, British Open champion Brian Harman, Max Homa and Sam Burns. Rickie Fowler rounds out the team. He’s playing for the first time since 2018. Koepka is the only player from LIV Golf on the team, one of the six captain’s picks after just missing out on automatic qualifying.
Luke Donald is the European captain. Henrik Stenson was the original choice but was dismissed as captain when he joined LIV Golf. Europe is in a rebuilding year but still has a strong core of experience — Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose and Shane Lowry. The four Ryder Cup rookies are Robert MacIntyre, Sepp Straka, Nicolai Hojgaard and Ludvig Aberg, who turned pro only in June. The LIV effect is strong. Missing from the European team room are Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell. Europe has always leaned on its heritage.
Nearly half the players at Marco Simone — five Americans and six Europeans — were not even born the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup in Europe.
That was in 1993 at The Belfry in England. The winning putt came from a Ryder Cup rookie, Davis Love III, who now is a 59-year-old vice captain for the U.S.
Since then, the Americans have lost in Spain, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France.
The Americans are always favored, and this year is no exception. FanDuel Sportsbook has Team USA as a slight favorite (-120) over Europe (+102). Even though the U.S. hasn’t won away from home since 1993, it is coming off a 19-9 victory, its widest margin ever against Europe.
FanDuel also has odds on who will be the top scorer, and that gets a little tricky. That will depend partially on how often someone plays. Two years ago, the Americans had only one player (Dustin Johnson) go all five matches. Europe had two (Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland).
Scottie Scheffler is favored to earn the most U.S. points (+470) over Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (+600). For Europe, Rory McIlroy is the favorite (+430) over Jon Rahm (+500).