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Stephen Gallacher: Europe reigns supreme after Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup clean sweep

It was never in doubt as Europe pulled off their Italian job to complete a clean sweep over the United States.

Team Europe captain Luke Donald and players hold the Ryder Cup Trophy after Europe regained the Ryder Cup on Sunday. Image: PA
Team Europe captain Luke Donald and players hold the Ryder Cup Trophy after Europe regained the Ryder Cup on Sunday. Image: PA

I can safely say the Ryder Cup lived up to the hype – and so did the Junior Ryder Cup for that matter.

My week in Italy was certainly a memorable one and there’s a great feeling of pride at being able to play a part in ensuring the Ryder Cup, Junior Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and Junior Solheim Cup are all in European hands.

We’ve never seen Europe race out the traps like they did in the opening foursomes on Friday morning as they completed a clean sweep 4-0 rout of the United States to take control.

It was incredible but what was even more remarkable it took the Americans until Saturday to win one of the matches.

To see it unfold up close and personal was unbelievable.

Bob did Scotland proud

Team Europe’s Robert MacIntyre lifts the Ryder Cup trophy. Image: PA.

As is always the case there were so many tales to unfold from three dramatic days of outstanding golf but the highlights for me were Bob MacIntyre emerging as the only undefeated rookie and Rory McIlroy’s redemption.

On reflection, Luke Donald’s decision to pair Bob with Justin Rose was an inspired one.

The veteran, the man who has been there and done it repeatedly, was the perfect foil for Bob.

I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this but he can get hot under the collar on the course at times so having a calming influence like Justin alongside him whenever he had a sticky patch was very astute.

I watched Bob get stronger as the days went by and by the time Sunday’s singles came round he was at the top of his game as he beat Wyndham Clark in the final singles match.

Rory’s redemption tale

Rory’s comeback tale was quite the story too.

He was so emotional at the end of his 3&1 victory over Sam Burns on Sunday.

In contributing four points for his team Rory felt he had made amends for losing three of his four matches in the heavy loss at Whistling Straits two years ago.

You could see the emotions he was dealing with, a mixture of pride and relief at what he had contributed to the team overwhelmed him.

That same pride was clear for all to see in the post-match press conference where his thoughts had already turned to the next match in the United States in 2025.

He said: “I think one of the biggest accomplishments in golf right now is winning an away Ryder Cup and that is what we are going to do at Bethpage.”

The banging of the desk from all his team-mates in agreement said it all.

United States seem to have a unity problem

Spectators waved their hats and caps at Patrick Cantlay during the fourballs on day two. Image: PA

Contrast the mood among the Europeans with that of the Americans.

I don’t know why but it seems every time the Americans lose a Ryder Cup match whatever unrest there has been behind the scenes becomes public very quickly.

The weekend was no exception as stories started coming out about Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele’s unhappiness with their player participation and benefit agreement contract.

There were claims Cantlay was not wearing a hat as part of a protest about it all and the home fans were quick to tease him about it on Friday.

Schauffele’s father claimed his son had been strong-armed into signing the agreement by the PGA of America or else face being kicked off the team.

Time will tell what went on in the US team – it usually does – but what is clear is that if your team is not unified you will not win at the elite level, and the standard does not come any higher than the Ryder Cup.

Could we see Luke vs Tiger in 2025?

All thoughts now turn to Bethpage in 2025 and it is clear the European players would like Luke to continue as captain.

I can see why as the LIV Golf has taken away six future captains in Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and of course Henrik Stenson, who was the original captain for this year’s match before joining LIV.

Luke has not ruled it out either and certainly if player power has anything to do with it then we should expect a conversation to take place about it between the relevant parties in the near future.

The favourite for the American captaincy is Tiger Woods. If he takes that job on you will have a million people wanting to be at Bethpage in New York in two years’ time.

Juniors rose to the occasion in stunning fashion

Team Europe players celebrate following victory over the United States in the Junior Ryder Cup at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. Image: PA

The Ryder Cup was the cherry on the top for me after watching my European team end the United States’ dominance in the Junior Ryder Cup with a stunning 20.5-9.5 win on Thursday.

I was so proud of the kids as they were outstanding. The pressure was on after six straight wins for the Americans but my team delivered in style.

I was lucky in that the six girls on my team had all played in the winning team for the Junior Solheim Cup a few weeks ago.

I think the experience of that helped settle the nerves very quickly and I’m proud to say my team gelled from day one.

We had a strong lead after the first two days but even going to Marco Simone for the singles there was part of me wondering how they would handle the big crowds and playing on the Ryder Cup course.

I need not have worried. If anything, the thrill of it all ensured they rose to the occasion and reached an even greater height than they had managed in the first two days at Golf Nazionale.

With more than a third of the team heading off to the United States to play golf and study I think most of them have been inspired at Ludvig Aberg’s incredible rise to prominence and fancy experiencing it for themselves.

I wouldn’t bet against any of them becoming stars in the future.

What a week to come home for

Following all the stress and excitement of the last week it’s nice to be able to have some fun this week back in Scotland for the Dunhill Links Championship.

I love this event. Any chance to play St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns is one I’m going to take every time.

There’s no other event like this. With amateurs and celebrities involved it’s a fun week at three fantastic courses.

It is a family affair for me with my wife and family, and the dog, here for the week and there’s always a carnival atmosphere around this event.

Plus, it’s the Home of Golf. Why wouldn’t there be a buzz in the air?