Can home advantage and brilliant Ludvig Aberg boost Europe? 5 talking points

By Sports Desk September 21, 2023

Europe will attempt to regain the Ryder Cup from the United States at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club from September 29-October 1.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five talking points ahead of the biennial contest, which the USA won by a record 19-9 margin in 2021.

Will home advantage prove crucial once more?

Seven of the last eight contests have been won by the home side, the exception being the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012 where Europe recovered from 10-4 down to pull off a remarkable victory.

Nine of the US team made a recent scouting trip to Marco Simone as they bid to secure a first win on European soil since 1993, but many of the European side have contested the Italian Open at the venue over the last three years, with Robert MacIntyre (2022) and Nicolai Hojgaard (2021) winning the title.

Can wild cards justify their picks?

Both captains opted to have six wild cards at their disposal and there was inevitably controversy as Zach Johnson selected an out-of-form Justin Thomas and Luke Donald left out Adrian Meronk, despite his Italian Open win in May.

Thomas in particular will be under scrutiny after being selected ahead of the likes of Keegan Bradley, Lucas Glover and Cameron Young, although he boasts a strong record in team competitions and was fifth on his most recent PGA Tour start.

Will Ludvig Aberg live up to his billing?

Aberg has made the fastest transition ever from amateur golf to the Ryder Cup after only turning professional in June, the 23-year-old winning the final qualifying event in Switzerland and being selected by Donald hours later.

He also led the BMW PGA Championship after 54 holes but struggled to a closing 76, a result which could be a blessing in disguise if it cools the hype surrounding the supremely talented Swede.

What impact will the lack of LIV players have?

Brooks Koepka is the only member of the Saudi-funded breakaway in Rome, the five-time major winner getting a wild card after dropping out of the automatic qualifying places after the final event.

Dustin Johnson – who won all five of his matches in 2021 – and Bryson DeChambeau could arguably have strengthened the US side, but the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood have shown precious little to suggest they would have come close to qualifying for the European team.

Will Europe’s big guns fire?

Donald demanding more from star names

Europe can boast three of the world’s top four and 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick is also in the top 10, but that is no guarantee of success. Fitzpatrick has lost all five of his matches to date, while Viktor Hovland halved two and lost three at Whistling Straits, where only Jon Rahm, Garcia and Tyrrell Hatton won more than a single point.

Rory McIlroy’s last two Ryder Cups have yielded three points from eight matches and Luke Donald will need more from his star names if Europe are to regain the trophy.

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    Schauffele managed a six-under 65 through his fourth round at Royal Troon, with a run of four birdies in six holes down the back nine seeing him pull clear.

    He finished two strokes ahead of Justin Rose and Billy Horschel, with Thriston Lawrence, Russell Henley and Shane Lowry rounding out the top of the leaderboard.

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    Schauffele is looking to follow in their footsteps in the coming years, telling reporters: "If you look hard enough, you can always find it.

    "It's something, when you feel like you need an extra kick in the butt, there's several easy ways to motivate yourself.

    "There's still a lot of things that I'd like to do in my career, and this is a very big leap towards that. The fire is still burning, maybe brighter than ever."

    Looking at the Claret Jug in his post-tournament press conference, the world number three added: "It's an honour. I've always dreamed of doing it.

    "That walk up 18 truly is the coolest with the yellow leaderboards and the fans and the standing ovation. It really is one of the coolest feelings I've ever had in my life."

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    Justin Rose accepted he had lost out to a "cold competitor" in Xander Schauffele after the American triumphed at the 152nd Open at Royal Troon on Sunday.

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    The last seven majors have now been won by American players, the longest streak of major victories by Americans since 1982.

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