Record breakers Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg help Europe turn Ryder Cup screw

Viktor Hovland (L) and Ludvig Aberg were in sensational form for Europe at the Ryder Cup. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Viktor Hovland (L) and Ludvig Aberg were in sensational form for Europe at the Ryder Cup. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Published Sep 30, 2023


Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg led Europe's charge towards Ryder Cup glory on Saturday as the event's biggest ever foursomes win contributed to a 9.5-2.5 third-session lead over the shellshocked USA in Rome.

Captain Luke Donald said on Friday he wants a "historic week" from Europe, gunning to reclaim the Ryder Cup lost in a record 19-9 thrashing two years ago at the hands of the USA, who are trying to win on this side of the Atlantic for the first time since 1993.

And his team have already delivered that at the Marco Simone course in Rome with Hovland and Aberg's 9 and 7 destruction of Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, the only player in the field from the Saudi Arabia-backed rebel LIV Golf circuit.

The Scandinavian pair steamrollered Scheffler and Koepka in the sort of display which Donald would have been dreaming of before his team arrived for work with the Eternal city still enveloped in darkness.

It handily eclipsed the previous biggest Ryder Cup foursomes win 44 years ago, when Americans Tom Kite and Hale Irwin thumped Ken Brown and Des Smyth 7 and 6.

Scheffler and Koepka's games broke down in the face of an unprecedented onslaught and the former was left with his head in his hands after conceding the match at the 11th, a series of duffed shots over the green leaving him and his partner no option but to admit defeat.

"I don't think we could have done a whole lot better," said Hovland, possibly the world's most in-form golfer.

"He's a stud (Aberg). He doesn't miss a shot, so it's easy when I'm playing well and he's playing well and we are just feeding off of each other."

Donald opted to switch the usual schedule and open with the alternate shot foursomes instead of fourballs and his team have made sure that decision has paid off handsomely.

The Americans didn't win a single match in a day for the first ever time on Friday but did manage to get some red on the board on Saturday through Max Homa and Brian Harman, who cruised to a 4 and 2 win over Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka.

'Big hole'

Homa and Harman will be straight back out in the afternoon's fourballs against Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Hojgaard.

"We obviously are in a big hole, but we have the right guys to dig ourselves out of it," said Homa.

However Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton secured a dramatic 2 and 1 victory against Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay to ensure Europe won a third straight session.

— Ryder Cup (@rydercup) September 30, 2023

And Rory McIlroy and Fleetwood won their second straight foursomes match to complete another morning rout, this time claiming the spoils 2 and 1 over Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth after Northern Irishman McIlroy sank a 15-footer on 17.

The European duo had been three up with six to play but formidable matchplay duo Thomas and Spieth gave the Americans hope of salvaging some pride until a collapse on the penultimate hole gave McIlroy the chance to seal the point.

"They get more special as you go on because you realise you don't have that many left. Hopefully I have a few Ryder Cups left in me," said four-time major winner McIlroy.

"It's been an absolute pleasure to share the golf course with this man beside me over the last couple of days."

It was another brilliant end to a session on a day which started in emotional fashion as glorious sunshine slowly crept over the course and buoyant home fans chanted "Europe's on fire, USA is terrified" before the start of play.

Supporters unfurled a large banner depicting Spanish Ryder Cup icon Seve Ballesteros, bringing vice-captain Jose Maria Olazabal to the verge of tears at the Italian message "forever in our hearts".

A large and loud crowd have delighted in the performance of the European team, and the players have responded to that passion with performances that will leave the USA's chances all-but gone if they don't turn the tide in the afternoon's fourballs.