Europe Ryder Cup captain Donald has a plan to beat the US


GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (TBEN) – Rory McIlroy likened it to landing in a “jungle” when his checkers went off the line. Europe Captain Luke Donald pointed to the thickness of the blades of grass. US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick said the rough was just “criminal”.

If there was one big takeaway from the just-concluded Italian Open at the Marco Simone club outside Rome where next year’s Ryder Cup will be held, it’s that the course is set up to reward accurate tee shots with narrow fairways fringed by nasty rough and even taller grass beyond.

Donald made a record loss to the United States in Whistling Straits last year and is enlisting the help of the golf course to narrow the gap with the great Americans.

“We definitely want to make sure the ball enters the fairway,” Donald told The The Bharat Express News after Sunday’s final round, confirming plans to further narrow the fairways.

“It won’t be narrower than a US Open or anything like that — I think there’s plenty of width here,” he said. “But some (the holes) have a little too much width in areas. So if you want to grab and hit a driver you can, but it gets tighter.”

In Whistling Straits, where the Americans won 19-9 for the biggest margin of victory since continental Europe joined the 1979 Ryder Cup, the rough was reduced to a maximum of four inches.

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On the other hand, part of the tall grass at Marco Simone reached beyond the knees of the players.

“I think the tougher the test is, the better it is for us,” said Europe vice-captain Edoardo Molinari, the team’s analysis expert.

McIlroy added: “When you get it off-line here from the tee, it’s very, very hard. The rough is incredibly thick and there’s kind of a jungle out there when you get a game way off the line.”

“(The Americans) are very good from 150 inches, so try to set up the golf course so that it’s challenging to get your tee shots within that range,” McIlroy said. “By forcing people to play more conservatively from the tee, I think that helps Europeans a little bit.”

It wasn’t just the rough stuff that presented a challenge. Changeable weather every day brought heat, rain and wind for Sunday’s near-perfect conditions.

“Some of these guys who are likely to be on the Ryder Cup team next year would have seen it all this week,” said Donald, who took over the captaincy duties from Henrik Stenson last month after the Swede was stripped of the honor of being a member. from the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf circuit. “It’s a good thing they are very well prepared.”

None of the likely Ryder Cup members for the US team showed up.

Donald himself, who finished 13 strokes behind surprise winner Bob MacIntyre, learned a few lessons himself when he hit the wrong ball on Friday after a bad tee shot on the wheeled par-4 16th and then lost a ball into a tree at 13 on Sunday .

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“I’ve had an adventurous week,” he said.

McIlroy, who finished in fourth place two strokes back, dropped out of the fray on Sunday when he hit the water at 16.

Fitzpatrick, who lost to MacIntyre in a playoff, was on course for the win until he found the rough on the par-3 17th and bogeyed the penultimate hole for the third time in four attempts.

Fitzpatrick then drove into the rough again on the first playoff hole, allowing MacIntyre to take his first win in nearly two years – and only the second of his career.

A smooth Scot from the whiskey town of Oban, MacIntyre made his way up the hilly course by consistently hitting the greens – never anything too spectacular – and set the lowest round of the week on Sunday with a 7-under 64.

“For me it is quite simple. If you hit it where you aim, you’ll be fine,” said the 26-year-old southpaw. “Luckily for the most part today I aimed well, I hit it well and the putter worked.”

From September 29 to October 1, 2023, Marco Simone will become the third venue in continental Europe to host the Ryder Cup, after Valderrama in Spain (1997) and Le Golf National in France (2018).

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MacIntyre’s performance in the second week of the Ryder Cup qualifying period may have earned him a spot on next year’s squad.

“I played with Bob at Wentworth last week,” said Donald. “Looks like a strong player, a strong mind — he looks very fearless on the golf course, which is what you need in a Ryder Cup. It’s a busy situation.”

On the eve of the tournament, Donald and many of Europe’s top players such as McIlroy, Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari dined together.

“Of course we usually play a very individual sport. But one week every two years we try to come together as a team and unite,” said Donald. “And having those dinners helps with that.”

Edoardo Molinari said the menu featured “pasta, prosciutto and mozzarella” and that “almost everyone enjoyed a glass of wine.”

Donald hopes more elite players will visit Marco Simone in May when the next Italian Open is contested.

“Since a lot of eyeballs or potential players come over and get a feel for this place, so much the better,” he said. “I know the schedule is tough and it’s busy and packed, but I will definitely encourage them to try and make the trip.”


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