ROME — The singles lineups are out, there is honest-to-goodness fighting, the U.S. needs a dramatic comeback, and tensions are high. Let’s get right into the biggest takeaways!
1. Both teams loaded the boat
Over time, Sunday singles philosophy has gravitated toward a place where the correct way to set your lineup, regardless of whether you’re trailing, leading, or tied, is to “load the boat.” That simply means putting your best players at the top of the lineup. Are you behind, and need a kickstart? Load the boat. Are you ahead, and want to seal the deal and prevent the other guy from grabbing momentum? Load the boat.
That’s precisely what both teams did here. Rahm, Hovland, and McIlroy are the top three for the Europeans, the U.S. rolled with Scheffler, Cantlay, and Morikawa, and by contrast, the tail end of both lineups feature the players who have been seriously struggling, from MacIntyre to Lowry to Spieth to Fowler. Clearly, seizing momentum early is a massive priority for both.
2. We missed McIlroy-Cantlay by one dang spot
One of the great frustrations in Ryder Cup singles is that the draws are blind. After the fracas on 18 Saturday afternoon, when Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava got in McIlroy’s way and had to be told multiple times to move, leading to a series of arguments and a very angry McIlroy in the parking lot as he left Marco Simone, it would have been absolute fire to see them face off in singles. Unfortunately, they were one spot away from each other; McIlroy third and Cantlay fourth. Tantalizing!
3. Rahm-Scheffler III is ON!
Scottie Scheffler caught the eye of U.S. captain Steve Stricker when he beat Jon Rahm at the 2021 WGC-Match Play, and then met him again, and beat him again, on Sunday at the Ryder Cup. That was after Rahm had played all four sessions and was dead tired, and Scheffler’s prowess helped secure the American victory. Now, they’re matched up yet again in the top spot, and this time both should be sufficiently rested. Rahm has actually played Scheffler twice in pairs matches here in Italy, winning one and drawing another with a ridiculous eagle putt. This should be great.
4. Television might be wise not to televise Lowry-Spieth
Oof. Has a Ryder Cup hole ever been won with quadruple bogey?
5. Justin Rose has a chance to stick a dagger for Europe against Cantlay
You know the Europeans are going to be out for blood with Cantlay, and the crowd is going to be dogging him and his caddie LaCava endlessly. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Rose has been so perfect in his limited role in this Ryder Cup, but it sort of is—as good as he’s been in his career, he is 43. But now he has the chance to put a mighty exclamation mark on the proceedings by collecting a major win against a guy who the crowd and the players are going to be looking at as public enemy No. 1.
6. McIlroy and Hovland might be vulnerable
There is a long history in the Ryder Cup of players who are in their fifth session in singles totally pooping out, and that could be exacerbated this year because of the terrain of Marco Simone and the hot weather. The two European players who meet the criteria are Hovland and McIlroy, and while they look like favorites in their respective matches against Morikawa and Burns, the truth is that they should be underdogs. Don’t forget, both lost their Saturday afternoon sessions. Meanwhile, Burns and Morikawa looked rough early on, but just got a massive win and played much better Saturday afternoon. This is a serious danger point.
7. Ditto for Homa
The only American to play five is Max Homa, and he’s up against Matt Fitzpatrick. If there’s any solace here, it’s that Fitzpatrick has been a pretty poor singles match play golfer in the American part of his career, with two Ryder Cup losses thrown in with his 8-10 WGC record. Still, he’ll be rested, and there’s value in that.
8. Hatton – Harman is an underrated dandy
Two guys in sneaky good form, especially Saturday, with combative personalities and combustible tempers, playing in a spot where one of them (Hatton) could potentially clinch the winning point? Sign me up!
9. Koepka has one more chance to back up his smack talk, but it’s against the Euro golden boy
Koepka-Aberg is going to be a fireworks display, and if the Ryder Cup is still undecided by the time they get to the 7 spot where these two meet, both captains are going to need them to deliver. Koepka has yet to lose a Ryder Cup singles match in three tries, and Aberg has yet to play one, but this could be bigger than you think.
10. The U.S. absolutely has a path
Zach Johnson’s team needs 8 1/2 points out of 12 to reach the 14-14 mark and retain the Cup, and the good news is that that exact margin has been achieved four times since the start of the European era. No team has ever done better, but they have reached that mark. To become the fifth, the U.S. quite clearly needs to start hot, and the good news is they have a guy in Scheffler who has beat Rahm before, potentially tired superstars in Hovland and McIlroy, and their hottest player, Cantlay, against Rose. I’m not saying it’s the likely outcome, but you can see them winning all four—it’s not crazy. After that, the matches get a little ugly, but Europe’s late lineup is a bit uglier with plenty of rookies, a way-off-form vet in Lowry, and Fleetwood trying to hold down the fort in the 11th spot. If it comes to him, all bets are off, and it wouldn’t be the strangest thing we’ve ever seen in the Ryder Cup.
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com