Editor’s Note: Golf Digest is recapping and analyzing every episode of the second series of the Netflix golf series Full Swing. Last season’s recaps can be found here.

Season 2 Recaps: Ep. 1: The Game Has Changed Part 1 | Ep. 2: The Game Has Changed Part 2 | Ep. 3: Mind Game | Ep. 4: Prove It | Ep. 5: In the Shadows | Ep. 6: Pick Six | Ep. 7: All Roads Lead to Rome Part 1 | Ep. 8: All Roads Lead to Rome Part 2 | Bonus: Season 2 Review

The Story

Episode Title: “All Roads Lead to Rome, Part 1”

Tagline: The U.S. team is ready to dominate in the Ryder Cup once more, but European captain Luke Donald is determined to lead his team to victory in Rome.

We got cliffhung last episode, and Netflix wastes no time getting to the thrilling conclusion of captain’s picks. Hovered over his iPhone, his wife Kim behind him for support, Zach Johnson makes his first call to Jordan Spieth … and Spieth, hilariously, doesn’t pick up. “Come on, Jordan!” Johnson scoffs, sounding very much like Spieth himself doing self-talk after a bad approach. Koepka is next, and he sounds as always like he just woke up from a nap, but is happy to accept the Ryder Cup invite. Spieth calls back, revealing that he’s staring at a dirty diaper, but he too accepts the invite. A very sincere Rickie Fowler comes next, we don’t get to see Colin Morikawa or Sam Burns get their good news, and then it’s on to poor Keegan Bradley. We know from outside the show that the Netflix crews rushing to Bradley’s house made him think he had made the team, but in reality, it’s more heartbreak.

“It’s nothing you did or didn’t do, because you’re amazing on the course and off,” Johnson says, sounding like he’s dumping a longtime girlfriend he still loves, but knows the spark is gone. Bradley takes it in stride, though he and his wife are both clearly distraught, and wishes Johnson luck in Rome. Johnson has a strange reaction of smiling when he hangs up, a product of the tension, and Bradley gets a hug from his son. Finally, ZJ tells his old pal JT that he’s on the team. Thomas is being filmed by his wife, and says, “yeah, I think I can make that work, Zach,” which is a funny thing to say in the moment, but then the tension breaks and he says, “****ing A man, so stressful,” to which Johnson responds, “you did it to yourself!”


Warren Little

The American drama over, we’re off to London and European captain Luke Donald, who proves his chops right away by successfully navigating a turnstile with Ryder Cup director Guy Kinnings. He’s ready to walk toward his doubts to find his potential, which will be hard because as we see in montage, the U.S. humiliated Europe the last time they did this at Whistling Straits. Worse, the European side has been depleted, at least in theory, by the LIV defections.

Donald is ready, and so is Justin Rose, a coffee enthusiast who also plays professional golf and desperately wants to make one last Ryder Cup. The defections help him most of all, because he has the experience Donald dearly needs on his rookie-heavy team, but his form has been iffy enough that it’ll be a sweat to see if he gets a pick.

The brief foray into Roseworld segues back to Donald and his backflipping daughter back in Jupiter, who seems very, very politely dubious about Johnson’s picks, while his wife Diane sheds light on how the Ryder Cup captaincy comes at a great time for Donald. The Englishman, who became captain after Team Europe sacked Henrik Stension for jumping to LIV, is struggling with getting older and less competitive and could use a project. He knows Johnson has had a better career than him, despite never being No. 1, and though Donald never says it outright, you get a sense that for the zero-time major winners, this is his major.

Speaking of ZJ, he’s at his son’s football game in Sea Island, and as we bounce back between the two captains, there’s not much to distinguish them. Both are studious, both are anxious, and both will leave no stone unturned in trying to win this thing. A week after Johnson’s picks, Donald makes his decisions, and Rose is one of the beneficiaries. Unlike the Americans, we only see the happy calls here, and Rose is the happiest. Waiting on his lovely yard, drinking Pimms, worried about reception, kicking a soccer ball to distract himself, and when the phone rings he smiles while simultaneously looking like he wants to puke. When he gets the good news, he yells “yes!” and then can’t stop talking, he’s so happy. “Thanks for all the faith in me,” he says. “That’s so fun!” his wife says.

The teams are set, and it’s off to beautiful Rome, where there are receptions, galas, ceremonies, and etc. etc. etc. In between all this, the Americans have a long discussion about what aiming “right edge” means—they all seem to agree—and the fans begin to stream into Marco Simone for the practice rounds. We get a bit of analysis, some interesting clips of people like Nicolai Hojgaard asking Rory McIlroy if it’s normal to feel terrified, and the wives walking all over Rome. The pomp is seemingly endless, right through the opening ceremony, but finally we get to the first session on Friday morning, the goosebumps of the first tee and the sheer unbelievable nerves of the whole thing.

And then, almost before anyone could blink and before many American fans were even out of bed, Europe romped the Americans 4-0 in the first session and basically ended the Ryder Cup. To quote JT, “holy ****, this is real.”

The Good Stuff 1501930817

Patrick Smith

At the risk of sounding like the world’s most cliché college basketball analyst, this episode was a tale of two halves. The first half was just as fascinating and fun as the previous episode, which goes down as my favorite of the series, because the sheer anxiety of waiting on an acceptance or rejection from the captain is never dull, and “Full Swing” weaved the stories in and out beautifully. Having the cameras rolling on the American players for what has historically been a very private moment was phenomenal, and you have to give them all credit for letting it happen. But you have to give special credit to Keegan Bradley, who told the producers that he wanted them there no matter what the news was, and let them film and then show what had to have been one of the most difficult moments of his career. It made for great television, and there are many players who would never have allowed it in the first place. Bradley went through a little bit of hell that fall, but I think people are going to leave this season liking him a lot more than they did before.

The European picks sequence isn’t quite as exciting as the American side, and it’s too bad we didn’t get to see Adrian Meronk receive his rejection call, but all in all it was pretty solid, and Rose proved to be a great subject. Netflix has had some good luck in the players they picked, and while it took all year for that effort to pay off with Rose, the Ryder Cup had to make it all worthwhile.

There’s not much left to say here; I could watch this stuff every year, because it never gets old. The human drama of the Ryder Cup sometimes delivers on the actual course, but with captain’s picks, it never fails. It’s one of golf’s most reliable story engines, and “Full Swing” made great use of it.

More from Golf Digest ‘The Loop’ We found out the hilarious thing Joel Dahmen and Geno Bonnalie were actually doing at Waffle House in ‘Full Swing’ The Duds

Once the teams were set, we get to the second half of the episode, and see the emergence of a reality that’s going to dog “Full Swing” the rest of the way: producers couldn’t get the cameras into the locker rooms. It’s not their fault, and you can bet they tried as hard as they could, but in the end neither team signed off, and it’s plain to see that the lack of access really hurt them. It’s not that the last 20 minutes or so were bad, necessarily—there was still some good content—but it was mostly filler, and mostly stuff we had already seen or that we didn’t really need to see. I’m not sure what the point of all the parties was supposed to be (glamor, I guess?), but it played as very dull and repetitive, and a little bit like Netflix just didn’t have the goods for the lead-up. Again, as hard as I’ve been on the show before, it’s hard to cast much blame here; the way you build up the Ryder Cup is by showing scenes of nervous players inside the locker room, and they couldn’t do that. In the absence of that, they had to resort to the documentary equivalent of duct tape and glue to get us to the action.

It also cannot have helped that the Ryder Cup itself was instantly and thoroughly anticlimactic, but that’s more of an Episode 8 problem.

Stray Thoughts 1711611532

Maddie Meyer/PGA of America

—Of the captain’s pick calls we got to see, my favorite was Nicolai Hojgaard, who led with “oh my ***ing god.” Between that and his funny but relatable dialogue with Rory on the course about the fear settling in as earlier as the practice rounds, I absolutely want more Nicolai next season. With his obvious talent and a dash of goofiness, he seems like a taller, Nordic Tom Kim. Bring him back for Season 3 (along with his twin brother Rasmus)!

—The hyper-dramatic build-up to Zach Johnson’s calls followed by Spieth not answering is one of the season’s funny moments. It’s not quite “Tom Kim riding on a motorized cooler,” but it’s so good.

—Something about ZJ’s phrasing before calling Keegan Bradley, when he said, “I do not envy this part of the job,” made me laugh. It’s your job, buddy!

—I may be paranoid, but I feel like Johnson is going to get some heat for the way he smiles and almost seems like he wants to laugh when hanging up with Bradley, so I’m going to pre-emptively defend him: There are people in this world (I am occasionally one of them) who can’t help reacting to that kind of moment with a paradoxical emotion like laughter, even when it’s totally inappropriate. It doesn’t mean we’re psychopaths, I swear.

—Thrilled we got our “throwing the medicine ball” shot with Justin Rose. I was getting so scared that we might go a whole episode without seeing it.

—I can’t stop thinking about how the Netflix cameras raced to get to Bradley’s house before Johnson’s call made him think he was on his team. It was always going to be a gut punch, but somehow the universe found a way to make it worse. Brutal.

—Zach Johnson calling his wife “captainess” is … something. (I do want “Thanks captainess” on a t-shirt.)

—I will admit I was surprised to learn that Justin Rose is perennially late, and that he has something called “Rosey time.” I had him pegged as the guy who was always 15 minutes earlier and who would become increasingly enraged if somebody else was late.

—Justin Rose is older than me, but not by a ton, and him saying that he’s been a pro longer than he hasn’t is just the latest reminder of time’s nasty work. We didn’t need that, Netflix. Zero stars.

—”I’m more a critiquer than a barista” is a good quote from Rose, and now he knows what it’s like to be a golf journalist who struggles to break 90.

—There are a lot of impressive kids in this show, but I think the gold medal goes to Luke Donald’s daughter for her backflips on the trampoline. Although I still want to see ZJ’s son finish that Rubik’s Cube.

—I wish I had Thomas Bjorn’s voice.

—I will never stop being fascinated by Sepp Straka, a man with a southern accent, playing for Team Europe. I get it, the same way I would get it if you could train a turtle to ride a bicycle, but it will always be a little strange.

—I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the exact technical definition of “right edge,” and I’m kind of mad that I had to.

—Rory seems to be the only player on Team Europe who knows how to tie a tie.

—Rory seems to be the only player on Team Europe who is comfortable slapping Fitzpatrick on the butt.

—Could’ve used a lot less talk of sweating feet from Koepka and Cink. This was the moment I knew that “Full Swing” was running out of material for this episode … I can imagine a heated discussion in the editor’s room, with one side vehemently arguing against including the foot sweat scene, and other side going, “we got nothing else, damn you!”

—At the opening ceremony, I got vivid flashbacks to how much better Donald’s Italian was than ZJ’s. I should have known right then that America couldn’t win.

—They showed Novak Djokovic in the crowd, and I just want to report that I walked behind him for about 30 minutes that day, and I have never seen a human being with a more upright carriage in my life. It’s stunning.

—Colsaerts’ closing line of “welcome to the Ryder Cup!” after the 4-0 session was so, so gleeful and cocky. A real dagger to watch that from an American perspective. You have to hand it to him.

Final Assessment

The momentum from Episode 6 carried right into the start of this one, and lasted for about 20 minutes through the end of the captain’s pick drama. After that, we hit a narrative wall, and there was just nothing in the tank. The action picked up when play actually began, but “Full Swing” got hit hard by being refused locker-room access, and so far they’re not delivering much that’s exciting or new from Rome.

Listen to our ‘Full Swing’ reaction episode of The Loop podcast here: 

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com