When you sweep a session and put up a Justin Ray special (a feat of excellence or dominance that it requires several JRay tweets just to contextualize how long it’s been since…), then the easy, and often accurate conclusion is that everyone played their ass off.
But for Europe, the drubbing all started with its trio of superstars. The murmurs from Rome were that Jon Rahm looked as dialed as anyone. That translated immediately to the first hole in a blowout alongside Tyrrell Hatton, who seems like a nice partner fit. Rahm chipped in for par saves and nearly aced par-3s to put pressure on his alt-shot opponent. Unsurprisingly, Rahm led the 24-man field in strokes gained in the morning session.
Rahm is arguably Europe’s best player, but its hottest player is indisputably Viktor Hovland. And he also stepped up, delivering a blow to the American side with a chip-in birdie on the first green that really set the tone for the day. He was the perfect choice to “blood” (a term the Euro captains love to use) the touted rookie Ludvig Aberg.
And then there was Rory McIlroy, the leader and “bridge” of team Europe from the past generation to this current one. Rory has never had a go-to partner, but had two brilliant combinations on Friday with Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick. It was not his best golf day, but he was strong at the right times, including putting the final dagger into the formidable American duo of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay to ensure the sweep. McIlroy seemed emotional again in the post-match interview with Golf Channel Friday morning, perhaps this time relieved at the success following the struggles in Wisconsin.
When the USA appeared to have some life in the afternoon, it was those horses again, Hovland and Rahm, that really choked it off at the wire to preserve half points that felt demoralizing to the USA and uplifting to the Euros. Everything went nearly perfect for Luke Donald and Europe on Friday, and that all started with its three best players upholding the team’s legacy.
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