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Europe need four points to win today; the USA require eight-and-a-half to retain their trophy and nine for outright victory. The holders have to start fast, you’d have thought, so Scheffler does well to respond to losing the opening hole by getting well inside Rahm on the 2nd green. Meanwhile back on 1, Morikawa gets a big break, his tee shot so wild that he’s on the rough trampled by the gallery. He can reach the green and his approach lands pin high, where he’ll have a good look at birdie. Hovland well outside him.
As Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa turn up for their match, the roars drift all the way down the hole, to the comparative tranquility of the green. A few oohs and aahs there as Scheffler leaves a tentative birdie putt three feet short. No mistake by Rahm, though! A calm, perfect, laser-guided roll, and it’s the fastest start for Europe. He raises his putter in the air by way of reserved celebration. Meanwhile there’s more good news for the hosts back on the tee as Hovland splits the fairway, but Morikawa pulls his tee shot into the gallery.
1UP Rahm v Scheffler (1)
Hovland v Morikawa
Rahm pings his first iron of the day pin high, 15 feet to the left of the flag. Scheffler takes dead aim, but he’s a little short and will have a slightly longer birdie putt, maybe 20 feet or so.
Scheffler shed a tear or two yesterday after finding himself on the end of a record-breaking 9&7 reverse. He’s clearly regrouped, because he calmly bashes his opening wood down the track. Rahm follows him onto the short stuff, and this, old golfing buddies of mine, is on!
Scottie Scheffler comes out of the tunnel. It’s the only time so far that a member of Team USA has emerged first. A smattering of pantomime boos, but nothing really vicious, Scheffler being too darn likeable. If you’re after that sort of thing, let’s wait for Patrick Cantlay. The passion is reserved for Jon Rahm’s arrival. Bedlam, roar, tumult, etc. These two giants of the sport embrace each other warmly. Scheffler about to take the first shot of the final day of the 2023 Ryder Cup.
Days like this don’t come around too often. The atmosphere in the stands surrounding the first tee at Marco Simone is positively incendiary, and no wonder. Just to illustrate what the Ryder Cup means to people, yesterday saw the world number one dissolve in tears on the course, the world number two reduced to effing and jeffing at people in a car park, and the world number five having to deny creating a locker-room rift due to his placing a monetary value on something so precious. Yep, this tournament has value all right, just not something that can be measured in nickels and dimes. Right now, just for today, this is everything. The opening match is about to arrive at the 1st. Buckle up folks, because one way or another, it’s going to be special.
For a couple of heady moments yesterday morning, there were occasional whispers of Europe winning the 2023 Ryder Cup on Saturday. That was, of course, arrant nonsense – it would have taken two session bluewashes to achieve that – and any hubristic doofuses were soon slapped down in the afternoon when Team USA came back at Team Europe with a vengeance. Now, then, this scoreline …
Europe 10½-5½ USA
… looks extremely promising for Europe. Three teams have previously gone into the Sunday singles with this lead – the USA in 1981, and Europe in 1987 and 1997 – and on each occasion they’ve gone on to win the Ryder Cup. All of which augurs well for Luke Donald’s team … except that on all three of those occasions, the USA have won the singles session comfortably, Europe routed in 1981 and only just getting over the line in 1987 and 1997.
All of that being the case, those investing in Europe are advised to buy fingernails, sell teeth. Meanwhile the USA have good reason to dream of completing the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history, one that would, statistically at least, put the Miracle of Medinah in the shade. All set for the mother, father, extended family and captain’s picks of all stomach-churners, then? Good. The tee times of the Sunday singles are below (Europe first, BST). Here we go. It’s on!
10.35am: Jon Rahm v Scottie Scheffler
10.47am: Viktor Hovland v Collin Morikawa
10.59am: Justin Rose v Patrick Cantlay
11.11am: Rory McIlroy v Sam Burns
11.23am: Matt Fitzpatrick v Max Homa
11.35am: Tyrrell Hatton v Brian Harman
11.47am: Ludvig Aberg v Brooks Koepka
11.59am: Sepp Straka v Justin Thomas
12.11pm: Nicolai Hojgaard v Xander Schauffele
12.23pm: Shane Lowry v Jordan Spieth
12.35pm: Tommy Fleetwood v Rickie Fowler
12.47pm: Robert MacIntyre v Wyndham Clark