Live From Rome

Ryder Cup 2023: These 18 shots and storylines sum up Day 1

September 29, 2023

Maddie Meyer/PGA of America

ROME — What a day at Marco Simone. A historic one, either in a good or bad way depending on your allegiance. There's a lot to break down, so let's run through a few takeaways.

1. Hero Hovland’s chip-in was the best shot of the morning

Chipping in from a tight lie from the first green of the second match of the Ryder Cup is truly the high point of Viktor Hovland’s chipping transformation. And it set the tone for the entire day.

2. Monster Rahm's chip-in was the best shot of the afternoon

Jon Rahm was out for blood, from the moment his first drive sailed down the fairway to his final putt slamming into the hole in the afternoon, playing like a man incapable of losing.

3. Legend Rose’s final putt was the best shot of the day

No player contributed more holes to their match than the 43-year-old Justin Rose, who took the struggling Robert MacIntyre under his wing and drove a stake through the heart of the U.S. team with the final shot of the day.

"I said to my caddie, 'Come on, I don't want to be the only piece of red on that board," Rose revealed afterward.

4. Hojgaard’s elite-but-unrefined talent is perfect for fourball

Nicolai Hojgaard’s elite driver can be occasionally wild, but that will be sorted out in time. His upside, as evidenced by his seven birdies on Friday, will benefit Europe for years.

5. Lowry is the Ryder Cup Vibes Captain

Shane Lowry isn’t playing his best golf, but he’s such an unapologetic Ryder Cup diehard that his peers can't help but be lifted by his bubbly personality.

"I was trying to stay calm," he said, "and started losing my mind on the first tee ... I lost it. That's what the Ryder Cup does to me."

He played the part of Europe's biggest cheerleader in the afternoon, evidenced by this celebration on the 18th hole:

6. Europe is (and needs) to ride its horses hard

It’s hot in Rome, and Marco Simone is hilly. Europe is trending in a direction where two or potentially three of Hovland, Rahm or Rory McIlroy could play all five sessions. It’s a lot to ask, but a reality of this top-heavy team that has built a huge Day 1 lead.

7. The U.S. squad rotating will pay dividends

It seems pretty clear no player on the U.S. team will play all five. I do think that’ll pay dividends, especially with the team battling a headcold—though it’s hard to see that alone being enough to overturn this deficit.

"We're fighting things internally [health wise], but that's the benefit of having a deep team," U.S. captain Zach Johnson said.

8. Did the U.S. team take too much time off in the lead-up?

The Europeans—all of whom played in the BMW PGA Championship two weeks ago—simply looked sharper than the Americans on Day 1. Coming into the event, the U.S. taking time off (nine of the 12 hadn't played since last month's Tour Championship) seemed like a good idea. But was it? It's an easy thing to point to after their lackluster performance in the morning.

9. Justin Thomas proved why he was an obvious pick

It's amazing that anyone thought otherwise.

10. Just because it works in foursomes, doesn’t mean it’ll work in fourball

After Europe’s sweep of the foursomes session, there was surprise in some corners that Luke Donald split up some winning pairings. A good reminder that foursomes pairings don't necessarily translate to fourball success (and vice versa).

11. Hatton is strangely perfect as a lead-off hitter

It takes a certain character to face the tough task of leading the team out for a session. Tyrrell Hatton operates such a volatile wavelength even in the calmest of times, it makes him strangely suited to the more chaotic moments, evidenced by him earning 1½ points on Friday.

12. U.S. ‘friendship pairings’ weren’t the problem

The whole stop-pairing-guys-with-their-friends criticism of the U.S. team seems like a lazy argument to make. Most of the pairings either had proven records (Justin Thomas-Jordan Spieth) or analytics-friendly foundations (Collin Morikawa-Xander Schauffele).

13. Fired-up Fitzpatrick arrives as a new European stalwart

This was the first time Matt Fitzpatrick was trotted out in fourballs. When his putter gets cooking—as it did when he went six under through seven holes on the front nine—he looks unbeatable.

"For the first nine holes I was trying to hang on to this man's coattails. I said to him walking up 10, "At least I contributed twice," McIlroy said.

14. The short par 4s were fun (and sneaky tricky!)

I sort of thought the short par-4 fifth and 16th holes would get torn apart. They weren’t! Ryder Cup pressure changes things, and the hole saw some of the best and worst shots of the day.

15. Bobby Mac needs to find something—anything—he can play with

MacIntyre has looked low on confidence all week, especially off the tee. He needs to sit out Saturday to reset and get his game in order for Sunday.

16. Scheffler’s putting looks much better

Scottie Scheffler has been pouring hours in on the practice putting green. One solitary early miss aside, he boasted a hugely improved and impressive performance on the green.

17. Scheffler-Burns just doesn’t work

The U.S. team prefers defaulting to friendship pairings, but we’ve got enough evidence at this point to conclude Scheffler-Sam Burns simply doesn’t mesh on the course as well as it does off it.

18. This thing isn't over

Listen, things didn’t go well for the U.S. team, at all. But things aren’t over, but they need to win both of the sessions. By a lot, by a little, it doesn’t matter. Progress in any form is progress.