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Ryder Cup pressure on visiting Americans

Which side is facing more pressure this weekend as the biennial Ryder Cup — one of the most exciting events on the professional golf calendar — takes place at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club near Rome, Italy?

Bruce Penton

September 17, 2023

Twelve golfers from the United States face 12 of the best golfers from Europe and if history repeats itself, the Europeans will win back the Cup won in 2021 by the Americans at Whistling Straits, Wis. The Yanks demolished the Europeans 19-9, but when the event is held in Europe, the Americans turn into pussycats. They haven't won on European soil since 1993.

So the Europeans have the most pressure, right? Hardly. Captain Luke Donald's team rarely, if ever, loses at home. Any team featuring Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Ludvig Aberg and Tommy Fleetwood can't possibly lose, can it?

The Americans aren't exactly fielding a team of 12 handicappers. The best golfer in the world -- statistically, anyway -- is Scottie Scheffler and he leads the way for captain Zach Johnson's Dangerous Dozen. But because of a few controversial choices by Johnson for his captain's selections, the pressure is on a couple of Americans to shine. Case in point: Justin Thomas. Ranked as high as seventh in the world as recently as last February, Thomas had been on a steady decline until finding his game again at the recent Fortinet Championship, where he finished fifth. Before his rebirth at the Fortinet, the two-time major champion had only one top 10 since February, and had fallen to 24th in the world rankings. But he was selected ahead of potential Ryder Cuppers Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover because of Thomas's past performance in Ryder Cup play and reputed leadership qualities.

Cynics suggest that Thomas is on the team because he is a card-carrying member of the Old Boys Club, and other members of the 'club' --Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, etc. -- lobbied hard for his inclusion.

Anybody ranked 24th in the world can never be categorized as a terrible pick, but for a guy like Glover, who's 42 and will likely never get another crack at a Ryder Cup, his exclusion must have been heart-breaking.

If Thomas plays like a bum at Marco Simone, Johnson will be heavily criticized for the selection. Thomas's reputation as a clutch player in big events will get a big boost, however, if he performs well and garners a few points for the American side.

As for the Europeans, their only pressure is connected to home-course advantage. Not since the U.S. won at the Belfry in England in 1993 have the Europeans tasted defeat on home soil. They won at Valderrama in Spain in 1997, at the Belfry in 2002 (postponed a year because of 9/11), at the K Club in Ireland in 2006, at Celtic Manor in Wales in 2010, at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014, and at Le Golf National in France in 2018. Now it's in Italy, and the wise money is on another European victory.

Sports Comments

  • Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, obviously not a fan of Urban Meyer, former football coach and a member of the Fox Big Noon Kickoff panel: "As for Urban Meyer, well, if Meyer told me it was sunny, I would start looking for snow tires."
  • Headline at the "Rapinoe: 'It Was The Honour Of A Lifetime To Compete On Behalf Of All The Morons In My Country'"
  • Comedy writer Gary Bachman, who noted that the Jets' injured quarterback has hosted televised game shows in the past: "Aaron Rodgers' future may be in Jeopardy."
  • Bob Molinaro of (Hampton, Va.): "After finishing fourth in the World Cup of Basketball, the U.S. will send the varsity to the Paris Olympics."
  • Comedy writer Torben Rolfsen of Vancouver: "What were the parlay odds on 4 being (Josh) Allen's turnovers and (Aaron) Rodgers' snaps?"
  • RJ Currie of " has listed six precursors to a heart attack. Item No. 1 has had me worried -- the Edmonton Elks win two in a row at home."
  • Another one from RJ Currie: "A September article in finds a huge issue in the NFL is still domestic violence, with players arrested at a rate 55.4 per cent higher than the national average. The gene pool of these guys could use a good dose of chlorine."
  • Another one from the "Aaron Rodgers Hits $5 Million Contract Incentive After Finishing Season With Zero Interceptions
  • From "Phoenix Suns giving away free antennas to fans who want to watch their games. Difficulty: Indoor antennas which can't pick up the low power station they'll be carried on."
  • Another one from "For anyone feeling sorry for Aaron Rodgers, it's good not to note he made $399,000 per second he played this season."
  • Late comedian Bob Hope: "If I'm on the course and lightning starts, I get inside fast. If God wants to play through, let him."

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