Ryder Cup 2023 updates: U.S. gives itself chance with late Saturday charge, but Europe still carries big lead into Sunday
ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 30: Patrick Cantlay of Team United States gestures in celebration of winning his match 1 up during the Saturday afternoon fourball matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 30, 2023 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
What a difference 24 hours makes. Over the course of play Friday at Marco Simone, the anticipation that bathed the start of the 2023 Ryder Cup had turned into jubilation/resignation, depending on which team you were rooting for. Even the most diehard European fan couldn’t have dreamed of the magical 6½ -1½ performance of the home side. While poor play from the Americans helped clear the way for Europe’s runaway, the impressive performances from Luke Donald’s squad shouldn’t be overlooked. Led by Jon Rahm’s fire, and clutch 18th-hole putting from Viktor Hovland and Justin Rose, there would be no denying who would be on top after Day 1.
The question now is this: Do the Americans have a response? Captain Zach Johnson talked Friday about how proud he was of his team’s effort, alluding to health issues that might partially explain his side’s poor form. But come Saturday, his team will have to turn in a much more spirited showing, or Sunday will be no more than a formality before the Cup has a new owner.
In that respect, Day 2 of the 44th playing of the biennial event comes packed with its own intrigue and drama. Below you’ll find everything you need to know to follow Saturday’s opening play in sunny and warm Italy. Check back throughout the day for updates and insight as golf’s most compelling event continues.
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WHERE THINGS STOOD TO START AFTERNOON
Europe started Saturday’s afternoon fourball session out front, 9½-2½, extending its five-point lead to seven with a 3-1 victory in morning foursomes. A total of 28 matches (points) are on the line this week, with the U.S. needing to win 14 to retain the Cup (having won it last time) and Europe needing 14½ to win it back.
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SATURDAY AFTERNOON FOURBALL PAIRINGS
Saturday afternoon fourballs:
6:25 a.m.: Sam Burns/Collin Morikawa (U.S.) vs. Viktor Hovland/Ludvig Aberg
6:40 a.m.: Max Homa/Brian Harman (U.S.) vs. Tommy Fleetwood/Nicolai Hojgaard
6:55 a.m.: Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Robert MacIntyre/Justin Rose
7:10 a.m.: Patrick Cantlay/Wyndham Clark (U.S.) vs. Rory McIlroy/Matt Fitzpatrick
HOW SATURDAY AFTERNOON IS PLAYING OUT
It's desperation time for the U.S., and, well, the Americans seem to be responding early. Burns and Morikawa came out strong, going 6 up at one point before closing out their match with Hovland and Aberg (more on them shortly) 4 and 3. Burns played much better than he did on Friday, his confidence building enough for him to get into it a little with the crowds.
Homa and Harman also led for most of the day against Fleetwood and Hojgaard, finally knocking them out on the 17th hole with a 2-and-1 win (Homa now claiming a second point this week and becoming the leading contender for U.S. team MVP).
Then there were the remaining two matches, which swerved back and forth. Europe came out on top in Game 3 when MacIntyre and Rose took down Thomas and Spieth, 3 and 2, Spieth struggling again down the stretch. But the Americans finally pulled off a late rally when Cantlay birdied the last three holes to allow him and Clark to flip a 1-down deficit with three holes left to a 1-up win over McIlroy and Fitzpatrick. It was a victory that frankly the U.S. had to have if they were to have any chance on Sunday. So now Europe, instead of taking a seven-point lead into the final session, "only" has a five-point lead. It still will require a historic charge for the U.S. on Sunday in singles but for some reasons it feels just a little more manageable.
Here’s a link to the live leaderboard.
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WHERE THINGS STOOD TO START THE DAY
Europe starts Saturday’s play out front, 6½-1½, matching the largest Day 1 advantage in the history of the Ryder Cup (the 1975 Americans and the 2004 Europeans carried similar five-point leads into Day 2). Saturday’s foursomes session (alternate shot) is off and running. Here’s a link to the live leaderboard.
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SATURDAY FOURSOMES TEE TIMES
All times EDT
1:35 a.m.: Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Rory McIlroy/Tommy Fleetwood
1:50 a.m.: Scottie Scheffler/Brooks Koepka (U.S.) vs. Ludvig Aberg/Viktor Hovland
2:05 a.m.: Max Homa/Brian Harman (U.S.) vs. Shane Lowry/Sepp Straka
2:20 a.m.: Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) vs. Jon Rahm/Tyrrell Hatton
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HOW SATURDAY MORNING PLAYED OUT
The ugliness has continued for the U.S. side, as evidence but the historic beatdown Hovland and Aberg put on Scheffler and Koepka, the Europeans taking out the Americans 9 and 7 to extend the European lead to six points. It was the most lopsided foursomes outcome in the history of the Ryder Cup.
Meanwhile, the McIlroy and Fleetwood combo continued to play great, winning the first three holes in their match with Thomas and Spieth en route to a 2-and-1 victory.
One American bright spot: Harman and Homa found some form on the back nine, winning three straight holes from Nos 10-12 to jump out in front of Lowry and Straka, going on to win the first full point for the U.S. with a 4-and-2 triumph.
That left one match remains on the course, Cantlay and Schuaffele having rallied from 3 down to square their match with Rahm and Hatton through 14 holes. But the Europeans won the 16th hole with a par to return to a 1-up lead with two holes to play. And then Rahm did his Rahm things at the Ryder Cup with this tee shot on the par-3 17th hole.
Impressively, Cantlay hit a nice follow-up to five feet, but Schuaffele couldn't convert the putt, and Europe won the match 2 and 1 to take a essentially insurmountable 9½-2½ lead.
An overriding stat to know from the week as of 5 a.m. eastern time on Saturday: Europe has won 64 holes total on the week to the Americans 41.
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SCHEFFLER SHOOK UP
Scottie Scheffler's first Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits was nothing but perfect, getting experience in an event he's likely to play for years to come and enjoy the Americans runaway win. But the same has not been the case this week in Italy, where he's gone 0-2-1. And if you think that hasn't weighed on the World No. 1's mind, take a look his tearful reaction after he was part of the frustrating 9-and-7 loss with Brooks Koepka to Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg.
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HOW TO WATCH SATURDAY’S PLAY
If you haven't found it by now, live TV coverage of Day 2 play is on USA Network from 1:30 a.m.-3 a.m.(EDT), then switches to NBC from 3 a.m.-12 noon. You can watching it streaming on Peacock, RyderCup.com and the Ryder Cup app.
Click here to see how to watch the rest of this week's coverage.
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LINGERING STORIES TO FOLLOW
• So what are these health issues that Zach Johnson danced around on Friday? "The bottom line is there's been some unforeseen things that we've had to navigate around, which is really unfortunate, in the sense of health. It's not an excuse, because we have depth, but I'll just say, I'm grateful we have a team doctor."
Johnson then elaborated (sort of): "We're just fighting things, I mean, internally. It's kind of passed around a little bit, caddies, players. It is what it is. But it's nothing more than that. Guys are fighting and playing regardless. I mean, it's not anything that's kind of weighed us down because of the depth we have and because of the many options we think we have."
Does it get better or worse on Saturday? A reporter asked on Friday about Rickie Fowler specifically and whether he was one of the players suffering any issues. Johnson didn't directly answer it, but Fowler didn't crack the U.S. lineup in either foursomes or fourball on Saturday. NBC's Steve Sands reported that Johnson says the decision to sit Fowler all day Saturday wasn't health related but rather is a captain's decision.
• After watching Jon Rahm make his second eagle in three holes to steal away a halve point in their afternoon fourball match, Brooks Koepka took a jab at the Spaniard.
"I mean, I think me and Scottie [Scheffler] birdied, what did we say, 14, we birdied 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and then lost by two. So yeah. I mean, I want to hit a board and pout just like Jon Rahm did. But, you know, it is what it is. Act like a child. But we're adults. We move on."
Exactly what Koepka was referring to is unclear, but does this turn into more bad blood or just disappear as an odd sidelight to a frustrating Friday for the Americans?
Suffice it to say, the quote didn't do much to inspire Koepka's play on Saturday, as he was victim of Hovland and Aberg's crazy 9-and-7 drubbing in morning foursomes.
Meanwhile, Rahm handled the aftermath of the situation very well when talking to the media Saturday afternoon.
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DAY 1 RECAP
• Luke Kerr-Dineen broke down the good, the bad and the ugly
• While Shane Ryan looked at what Luke Donald and Zach Johnson got right and wrong to with their decisions as captain
• Joel Beall explored the conundrum facing the Americans as they once again seemed to have no answers to the riddle of winning on the road—and whether this poses a threat to the competition moving forward
• Only three of the eight matches made it to the 18th hole on Friday, and each time Europe found a way to steal a halve point with a clutch putt. Tod Leonard details why the 18th became Europe’s happy place
• One of those clutch putts was holed by Jon Rahm, who went 2-0 on Friday and, as Shane Ryan notes, has become Europe’s emotional leader
• John Huggan details how Matt Fitzpatrick finally claimed his first point in three Ryder Cups—and in emphatic style
• And Evin Priest broke out this story on Rory McIlroy, the four-time major champ who gladly played the role of supporting actor to Fitzpatrick and has become an impressive utility player for Europe