Luke Donald Ryder Cup captain

Why Europe are optimistic… and why it’s the USA’s time to end 30 years of hurt

Steve Carroll makes the case for both teams as he outlines the key themes ahead of an eagerly anticipated Ryder Cup clash


Boom! Shake the Room was number 1 in the UK charts. A pint of lager was a shade over £1.50. Tiger Woods was still at school. And the US won the Ryder Cup match in Europe.

It’s getting on for 11,000 days since Tom Watson’s charges squeaked to a 15-13 win at The Belfry back in 1993 and, though they’re always the perennial favourites, no American team has tasted success on European soil since. 

There has been plenty of heartache. Edged out at Valderrama and The Belfry, clobbered at the K Club, drenched at Celtic Manor, outmanoeuvred at Gleneagles and overwhelmed in Paris, it’s been a miserable saga.

But as both continents get set to do battle again at Marco Simone, there is genuine optimism that Zach Johnson’s current collective is better placed than some of its predecessors to snap the streak.

After their drubbing at Whistling Straits, you might think the European Ryder Cup team were in transition – especially after the heart of its ‘boot room’ upped sticks and joined LIV Golf.

Even without the talismanic Sergio Garcia – the competition’s record points scorer – skipper Luke Donald still has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about sending the USA packing and regaining the Ryder Cup on home soil.

So let’s take a look at how both sides could claim the win, and why we should be in for a riveting 2023 Ryder Cup match in the ‘Eternal City’.


viktor hovland fedex cup

Key players are in form

Rory McIlroy’s looks like he might win every tournament he enters. Viktor Hovland shot a course record 61 to win the BMW Championship. Matthew Fitzpatrick is regularly contending. Tommy Fleetwood is surely close to a PGA Tour win.

Europe’s star players – the men Luke Donald is relying on to grab the points in Rome – have been regularly at the top of leaderboards. He doesn’t have to worry about whether Justin Thomas might find some form, his big-name performers are all at the top of their game. It could be a crucial factor.  

Europe’s best rank right up with the USA’s

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to introduce the 12 best golfers in the world.” Ray Floyd’s bravado at the gala dinner ahead of The Belfry in 1989 mimicked Ben Hogan 22 years earlier and ruffled feathers.

But for plenty of Ryder Cup match-ups down the decades it was also true. Not anymore. Yes, Scottie Scheffler is the World No. 1.

But Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are two and three respectively. Viktor Hovland and Matt Fitzpatrick are solidly in the top 10. Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood just outside. Week in and week out, these European stars don’t just hold their own, they dominate.

Europe’s famed team spirit

Every American team that’s crossed the Atlantic since 1993 has gone home defeated. The famed European team spirit is not a myth, it’s a force of nature that propels team members to incredible heights.

Who could possibly have foreseen Francesco Molinari’s perfect five from five in 2018, or Jamie Donaldson’s heroics at Gleneagles four years earlier? The collective will to win trumps any individualistic desires and will be just as strong in Rome.

There are no LIV issues to deal with

If there has been a spoke in Zach Johnson’s Ryder Cup wheel, it was over how he’d manage the LIV contingent pressing for qualification.

Whatever he did, controversy would follow and it will linger both through and after the Ryder Cup if things don’t go to plan.

From a playing point of view, Luke Donald has had no such issues. The bulk of the LIV defectors were unlikely to play again anyway and hadn’t shown any consistent form to open discussion. Donald has been able to concentrate on selecting his 12 without distraction.

Europe have a 13th team member in the stands

Unless you’ve witnessed it, it is hard to describe the emotions the Ryder Cup brings out among the paying public. It’s tribal in its nature, almost like football. Just thinking about the Thunderclap that shook the grandstands in Paris brings out the hairs on my arms.

It must be an inspiring feeling to have that mass of humanity willing you on, roaring you down every fairway. It’s a palpable home advantage – applied just the same way when Europe go to America – and the Rome arena is shaping up to feel more like the Colosseum than a golf course.

Don’t underestimate the underdog

We love it, don’t we? Backs against the wall, no one thinks we can win and, yet, somehow we pull it off again.

There is something to be said about the pressure that comes with expectation. And the USA will have to deal with plenty of that. If Europe loses a session? No problem. But if they start strong, and the USA get behind, then 30 years of hurt could quickly creep up and engulf them in negativity.

Our rookies aren’t being given enough credit

There is a fallacy that beyond Europe’s top eight the team basically turns into a set of hackers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bob MacIntyre won a playoff in Marco Simone in 2022 and has starred in match play formats. Sepp Straka’s made the Tour Championship field in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Nicolai Hojgaard has won at Marco Simone and twice on tour overall. Ludvig Aberg’s rise to prominence has been sensational.

These are not players fluking their way in. They’re seasoned performers. Whoever got the nod deserves more credit.


The squad is SO deep

Had a US captain’s picks and team selection ever been this interesting? To take Brooks Koepka or not? Should he leave Justin Thomas at home? Zach Johnson was even without DJ for the first time since 2010 and could still call on a quite awesome arsenal.

All the major champions except the Masters winner were able to be in his ranks, along with the World No. 1 and a fearless crop of rookies who think nothing of winning big tournaments.

We’ve all heard that before, but the spine of this team has already smashed Europe once at Whistling Straits. They might be even stronger now.

This US team is together

No Mickelson-Woods distractions to derail this team. No egos on display. This USA team genuinely seems to get along, and to want to fight for each other.

It’s a state anomalous to the traditional stereotypes of US players as individuals largely uninterested in a glorified exhibition. And let’s contrast that with…

Europe in transition… and in disarray?

Europe’s Ryder Cup match success was built on the backs of generational talents. Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter – their tournament records, and place in the European game, speak for themselves.

As much as Donald has not had a problem on the playing front, how much experience, how much Ryder Cup-winning know how is lost as that quartet sit in Ryder Cup exile?

Whatever your views on their move to LIV, that’s a lot of points – and a lot of guile – on the sidelines. It must have some impact. 

Marco Simone When is the 2022 Ryder Cup

Will the course really favour the Europeans?

Part of Europe’s dominance at Le Golf National came because a chunk of Thomas Bjorn’s team had not only played the course on multiple occasions but had stellar records there too.

As we head to Marco Simone, the US big contenders stayed at home for the Italian Open back in May. But so did many Europeans.

Granted McIlroy, Fitzpatrick, Hatton and Hovland all played the event in 2022, but will that be enough? Or could a prospective US scouting trip after the Tour championship level up the course knowledge?

The European cliches of thick rough and narrow fairways will probably still be in attendance, but the benefits of home advantage might be somewhat narrowed this time around.

Now have your say on this Ryder Cup match up

What are the key battle lines for this Ryder Cup? Will Europe keep their incredible home record going, or will the USA win away from home for the first time in 30 years? Why not let us know on X, formerly known as twitter.

Do the Ryder Cup captains actually matter?

Do the Ryder Cup captains actually matter?

Latest Posts

ryder cup europe wins


Five reasons why Europe WILL win the Ryder Cup

Read full article - Five reasons why Europe WILL win the Ryder Cup
ryder cup format


What is the Ryder Cup format?

Read full article - What is the Ryder Cup format?
who was samuel ryder


Who was Samuel Ryder?

Read full article - Who was Samuel Ryder?
Zach Johnson Luke Donald Ryder Cup everything


Ryder Cup: Everything you need to know about the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone

Read full article - Ryder Cup: Everything you need to know about the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone
Thorbjorn Olesen


How an ‘angry and frustrated’ Thorbjorn Olesen took down Jordan Spieth

Read full article - How an ‘angry and frustrated’ Thorbjorn Olesen took down Jordan Spieth
how much do ryder cup players get paid


How much do Ryder Cup players get paid?

Read full article - How much do Ryder Cup players get paid?
guardians of the ryder cup


I’m sorry…The Ryder Cup Guardians are not for me

Read full article - I’m sorry…The Ryder Cup Guardians are not for me
max homa ryder cup


Golf’s smiley-faced assassin: Why Max Homa is USA’s biggest Ryder Cup asset

Read full article - Golf’s smiley-faced assassin: Why Max Homa is USA’s biggest Ryder Cup asset
chad campbell ryder cup


‘I’m going to put you last and this thing might come down to you’

Read full article - ‘I’m going to put you last and this thing might come down to you’