Greetings from Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, the only place to be this week.
It has been a memorable week, and also the most stressful of my life as captain of the European Junior Ryder Cup team.
I don’t know why I’ve felt so nervous.
Maybe it’s because as captain I can give all the advice and try to prepare my team as best as I can but from the moment they step onto that first tee it’s out of my hands.
It’s been a surreal feeling and that helplessness is something which has given me a new appreciation for what Luke Donald will be feeling with his guys for the Ryder Cup which gets under way tomorrow.
— Junior Ryder Cup (@JuniorRyderCup) September 26, 2023
We’ve had two brilliant days of golf at Golf Nazionale on the outskirts of Rome and it has been fantastic watching these talented young golfers on both sides give it their all.
The first two days have been relatively tranquil compared to what these players are going to experience today in their singles matches which will be held at the venue for this week’s main event.
Marco Simone will be a memory my players will never forget
— Junior Ryder Cup (@JuniorRyderCup) September 24, 2023
My players have enjoyed Golf Nazionale but it has been impossible to escape the videos everywhere on social media showing crowds of 45,000 watching the practice sessions at Marco Simone.
With the singles to decide the winners of the Junior Ryder Cup being held there today the sense of anticipation amongst these kids is understandable.
After all, no matter whether it is Europe or the United States who emerge victorious today every player involved is going to leave with memories to last a lifetime.
I’m just privileged to be part of it all and I’ve had a ball doing this job.
It’s hard to put into words but I feel like I’m part of history with these youngsters.
The standard of golf has been outstanding and it would not surprise me if we see future world number one male and female golfers and future major winners come from these two terrific teams.
One role ends and another begins on Friday
My captaincy duties with the Junior Ryder Cup will officially end today once the singles are complete.
But I’ll be swapping one role for another at Marco Simone as I’ll be working on the course for the next three days as part of Sky’s broadcast team.
I mentioned how fitness would be a huge factor here and that’s just for me being able to cover four rounds of golf in two days before covering the decisive singles on Sunday.
Add in the Dunhill Links next week back in Scotland and I’ll be at my physical peak. Either that or sleeping.
Seriously, I can’t wait for the drama to unfold.
There’s a reason why the Ryder Cup is the third biggest televised sporting event in the world behind the World Cup and the Olympics.
The excitement it provides is unparalleled and there’s no better entertainment than watching one of these matches go down to the wire.
What makes it so special is how it brings out emotions in players you don’t see any other week and I’m curious to see how the new guys in the respective teams handle it.
How will the new kids on the block handle the occasion?
Ludvig Aberg is one I’m particularly interest in watching.
He is a fantastic golfer already and a young man tipped for greatness but this environment will be unlike anything he’s experienced before.
All I want is two teams going at it all the way to very end on Sunday. That and a match between world number one Scottie Scheffler and number two Rory McIlroy.
That would be awesome.
There’s something about matchplay which just makes it special.
It’s not about strokes, it’s about going head to head against an opponent on the course, holding your nerve and showing you want to win more than they do.
Naturally I’m rooting for Europe but the teams are so evenly matched that I expect this one to be really close.
The Americans haven’t won in Europe since the Belfry in 1993 but are here as the holders.
We’re going to have to play well to wrestle it back into European hands.
Solheim Cup lived up to the hype
There was no better inspiration in the build-up to this week than the incredible three days of golf we saw at the Solheim Cup.
It was an utterly bonkers, mesmerising spectacle.
For Europe to come back from 4-0 down after the first session to retain the cup against the Americans was astonishing.
I’m sure Suzann Pettersen would have loved to have celebrated a victory as European captain but Sunday must have felt as good as a win given the impressive start from the Americans.
Let’s be clear – at 4-0 down the margin for error from Suzann’s team was close to zero. Had they wilted the match could have been practically done and dusted on day one.
Friday afternoon was a test of character for the women and they showed how much they wanted it as they fought back gamely to close the gap.
The drama continued on Saturday and Sunday to the point I honestly thought they were going to really pull off a dramatic victory.
In the end a share of the spoils was probably right given the efforts of both teams.
But it is clear the Solheim Cup has become a must-watch event in its own right and it’s clear the women’s game is in rude health these days.