GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Rory McIlroy likened it to landing in a “jungle” when its thrusters went off course. Europe’s captain, Luke Donald, pointed to the thickness of the blades of grass. US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick said the rude was simply “penalty”.
If there was one important lesson from the just-concluded Italian Open at the Marco Simone club outside Rome that will host next year’s Ryder Cup, it was that the course is being set up to reward precise tee shots with narrow fairways surrounded by nasty and rough. taller grass beyond.
Coming off a record loss to the United States at Whistling Straits last year, Donald is enlisting the help of the golf course to try and bridge the gap to the highly successful Americans.
“We certainly want to prioritize getting the ball in the fairway,” Donald told The Associated Press after Sunday’s final round, confirming plans to further narrow the fairways.
“It’s not going to be narrower than a US Open or anything like that, I think there’s a lot of width here,” he said. “But some of the (holes) have areas that are too wide. So if you want to grab and hit the driver, you can, but it’s going to go down.”
At Whistling Straits, where the Americans won 19-9 by the largest margin of victory since continental Europe became part of the Ryder Cup in 1979, the rough was trimmed to a maximum of four inches.
In contrast, some of the tall grass at Marco Simone reached past the players’ knees.
“I think the tougher the test, the better for us,” said Europe vice-captain Edoardo Molinari, the team’s analysis expert.
Added McIlroy: “If you make it off the tee line, it’s very, very difficult. The rough is incredibly thick and there’s a kind of jungle outside of that if you play offline.”
“(The Americans) are very good from 150 inches, so try to set up the golf course to make it a challenge to get your tee shots in that range,” McIlroy said. “Forcing people to play more conservatively off the tee, I think that helps Europeans a little bit.”
It wasn’t just the rude that posed a challenge. Changeable weather each day brought heat, rain and wind before nearly perfect conditions on Sunday.
“Some of these guys who are probably going to be on the Ryder Cup team next year would have seen the whole thing this week,” said Donald, who took over the captain’s duties from Henrik Stenson last month after the Swede was stripped of the title. honor for joining the team. Getaway LIV golf course backed by Saudi Arabia. “It’s good that they will be very prepared.”
None of the likely Ryder Cup members for the American team showed up.
Donald himself, who finished 13 strokes behind upset winner Bob MacIntyre, learned a few lessons when he hit the wrong ball after a bad tee shot on the drivable par-4 16th hole on Friday and then lost a ball in a tree on Sunday the 13th. . .
“I had a week full of adventures,” he said.
McIlroy, who finished two shots back in fourth, was knocked out of contention Sunday when he fell into the water in the 16th.
Fitzpatrick, who lost in a playoff to MacIntyre, was on his way to victory until he found the rough on the par-3 17th hole and bogeyed the penultimate hole for the third time in four attempts.
Fitzpatrick then went into the rough again on the first hole of the playoffs, allowing MacIntyre to earn his first win in nearly two years, and only the second of his career.
MacIntyre, a soft-swinging Scotsman from the whiskey town of Oban, made his way around the hilly course consistently hitting the greens – never anything too spectacular – and posted the lowest round of the week on Sunday with 7-under 64. .
“For me, it’s pretty simple. If you hit him where you aim, you’ll do well,” said the 26-year-old southpaw. “Luckily today, for the most part, I aimed well, hit well and the putter worked.”
From September 29 to October 1, 2023, Marco Simone will become the third continental European venue to host the Ryder Cup after Valderrama in Spain (1997) and Le Golf National in France (2018).
MacIntyre’s performance in the second week of the Ryder Cup qualifying period may have earned him a place on next year’s squad.
“I played with Bob last week at Wentworth,” Donald said. “He seems like a strong player, a strong mind, he looks very fearless on the golf course, which you’re going to need in a Ryder Cup. It’s a high-pressure situation.”
On the eve of the tournament, Donald and many of Europe’s top players including McIlroy, Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari dined together.
“Obviously we play a very individual sport most of the time. But one week out of every two years, we try to come together as a team and come together,” Donald said. “And having those dinners helps with that.”
Edoardo Molinari said the menu included “pasta, prosciutto and mozzarella” and that “almost everyone enjoyed a glass of wine.”
Donald hopes more elite players will take a look at Marco Simone in May when the next Italian Open is played.
“The more eyes or potential players that come and get a sense of this place, the better,” he said. “I know the schedule is tough and it’s busy and packed, but I’ll certainly encourage them to try and make the trip.”
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