USA out to end 30 years of hurt in Europe at Ryder Cup

Team USA captain Zach Johnson applauds alongside Team USA's Justin Thomas and teammates during the opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Team USA captain Zach Johnson applauds alongside Team USA's Justin Thomas and teammates during the opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Published Sep 29, 2023


United States captain Zach Johnson said he is "extremely confident" in his team ahead of the start of their bid to end a 30-year wait to win the Ryder Cup on European soil against a home team in "transition".

The 44th edition of the event gets under way on Friday morning when world number one Scottie Scheffler and his American teammate Sam Burns play in the opening foursomes match against Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.

"Extremely confident in our 12 guys," Johnson said after a glitzy opening ceremony on Thursday.

"I try to take all the noise and periphery and everything else outside the ropes, take whatever could be difficult off their shoulders onto mine so they can go do what they do."

Johnson has an array of riches at his disposal, including world number one Scottie Scheffler and five-time major champion Brooks Koepka, the only LIV player to make the trip to Italy.

Seven of the team also featured in 2021 when the Americans dismantled Europe with a record-breaking 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits, making the US favourites to finally end their European hoodoo this time around.

Johnson will have four rookies to blood into the matchplay showdown, but largely opted for experience with his captain's picks, calling up Koepka, Jordan Spieth, the out-of-form Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

He has decided to leave out Spieth and Thomas, a star pairing in the last two Ryder Cups, for the first session of four alternate shot matches.

Europeans have to be members of the DP World Tour to be available for selection, so skipper Luke Donald has to do without Ryder Cup stars and LIV rebels Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

Rory McIlroy is the most experienced player on either team with six previous appearances, and the Northern Irishman will take on Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay alongside 2018 hero Tommy Fleetwood on Friday morning.

"There's a lot of great things to come. But couldn't be more excited to be a part of the team, and to have those other 11 guys be my teammates," said world number two McIlroy.

Johnson selected Koepka after his excellent performances in the major tournaments this season, winning the PGA Championship after finishing runner-up at the Masters.

But there was no place for Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau or former Ryder Cup hero Patrick Reed, who all now ply their trade with LIV.

Dustin Johnson was the talisman of the USA team two years ago, romping to five wins from five matches, and expressed disappointment at being overlooked.

But Koepka, who will also sit out the first session, said: "Everybody had an opportunity to get there. I mean, I had the same opportunity as every other LIV player, and I'm here. Play better. That's always the answer."

'Transition starts'

Europe will be slight underdogs but recent history is on their side after six consecutive home wins and they boast a dangerous team spear-headed by McIlroy, Masters champion Jon Rahm and the in-form Viktor Hovland.

McIlroy will be desperate for redemption after breaking down in tears while apologising for his disappointing performance in 2021.

Rahm, and his partnership with Garcia, was the only real bright spark for Europe during that thrashing.

"I can go 0-5 and if the team wins I'll be really happy," said the reigning Masters champion.

"As long as we win, I don't care. As long as we get to 14.5 points, what I do doesn't really matter."

A lot of eyes will be on Swedish youngster Ludvig Aberg, who only turned professional in June but has already climbed to 80th in the world rankings.

At the other end of the scale, Justin Rose is the oldest European player at 43 but he admits this weekend's matches represent a possible changing of the guard.

"The transition starts, or maybe the transition started last time around at Whistling Straits, and now we're coming through that already," he said. "But yeah, there is a difference."

Despite boasting the world's second, third and fourth-ranked players, Europe's average ranking of just over 29 is far inferior to the USA's 12.75.

But that has often been the case in previous Ryder Cups when Europe have ended up with their hands on the trophy.