Europe holds off United States to win Ryder Cup
GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — Tommy Fleetwood has never won a PGA Tour event in the United States, but the Englishman sure has broken plenty of American hearts when the Ryder Cup is played on European soil.
Fleetwood won the clinching point for the European team with a 3-and-1 victory over Rickie Fowler in the 44th Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on Sunday. The Europeans needed 14½ points to win back the Ryder Cup, and Fleetwood’s win after Fowler conceded on the 16th hole gave them a 15-10 lead with three matches left on the course in their eventual 16½-11½ victory.
It was the American team’s seventh straight Ryder Cup defeat outside the U.S. It last won in a road match at the Belfry in Warwickshire, England, in 1993.
“This is the best,” European team captain Luke Donald said. “This is why the Ryder Cup is so special to me and to these guys, because of these moments. We play for each other and we get to share in that success together, and we get to spend this week together and we’ll share those memories forever.”
The Europeans avenged their ugly 19-9 loss at Whistling Straits two years ago, the most lopsided defeat in Ryder Cup history. Donald wasn’t even named the European team captain until August 2022, after the previous one, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, joined the LIV Golf League.
“Not many people gave us a chance after Whistling Straits,” Donald said. “We were big underdogs. We started to show some form in the last six months, and I couldn’t be happier with the team I got. I think these guys will be around for a long time, and we’re going to put up a great fight in two years’ time.”
“I think everyone sitting here would be very happy to have him again,” Rory McIlroy said of Donald.
The European team was led by its big three: Norway’s Viktor Hovland, Northern Ireland’s McIlroy and Spain’s Jon Rahm, who went a combined 9-2-3 to post 10½ points. McIlroy went 4-1 and was the top points earner with four.
“It means an awful lot,” McIlroy said. “I was so disappointed after Whistling Straits. We all were. 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. I just knew that I needed to put in a better performance for my teammates this week, and you know, thankfully I was able to do that.”
The Americans came into the final day trailing 10½-5½ after getting walloped in both sessions of foursomes (alternate shot) matches. The U.S. team won four singles matches and tied another one to give itself a slim chance of producing the greatest final-day comeback in Ryder Cup history.
But then Fleetwood ended any hopes when he took out Fowler. There were four matches left on the course, and the U.S. had to win every one of them to retain the cup. Fowler was 1 down going into the par-4 16th hole and couldn’t lose another hole. He hit his tee shot into a pond to the right of the green. Fleetwood knocked his tee shot on the green and putted to about 3 feet from the hole.
Fowler conceded the match, and Fleetwood picked up his ball. He raised his arms and was soon swarmed by his European teammates.
Fleetwood was one of the stars in a 17½-10½ victory at Le Golf National outside Paris in 2018. He earned four points with a 4-1-0 record and was 4-0-0 when paired with Italy’s Francesco Molinari in the famed “Moliwood” pairing.
The Europeans had a chance to end the match much sooner. With the European team holding a 14-8 lead, England’s Matt Fitzpatrick was 1 down to Max Homa on the par-5 18th hole. Fitzpatrick had a 21½-foot putt to win the hole, tie the match and earn the clinching half-point. Fitzpatrick missed, and then Homa drained a 7½-footer to save par, after he had taken a 1-shot penalty because of an unplayable lie.
It gave the American team some life, at least for about an hour. Not long after Homa’s final putt dropped, Jordan Spieth made a 26-foot birdie to go 1 up on Ireland’s Shane Lowry. Then Xander Schauffele beat Denmark’s Rasmus Hojgaard 3 and 2 to make the overall score 14-10.
Justin Thomas was 2 up against Sepp Straka. Fowler had climbed from 2 down to 1 down against Fleetwood. U.S. Open winner Wyndham Clark had rallied from 3 down to tie Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre in the final match, after he didn’t concede a 3-foot par putt to MacIntyre, who inexplicably missed it.
In the end, the Americans — whose team selections of captain Zach Johnson went 4-12-4 — had dug themselves too big of a hole over the first two days to end their 30-year drought without a Ryder Cup victory on foreign soil. They will have to wait two years to get another shot at the Europeans at the Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, New York.
“I think one of the biggest accomplishments in golf right now is winning an away Ryder Cup,” McIlroy said. “And that’s what we’re going to do at Bethpage.”