The first day of the 44th Ryder Cup at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy saw a remarkable performance from Europe’s Jon Rahm. Rahm, alongside teammate Nicolai Højgaard, eagled twice in the final three holes to salvage a miraculous tie in their afternoon fourballs match against world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka. Rahm’s exceptional play, coupled with his earlier foursomes point, helped Europe surge into a five-point lead.
The Spaniard’s chip-in eagle at the 16th hole resulted in a jubilant celebration, with fist pumps and roars of delight from Rahm. However, the Masters champion had a much more subdued reaction to his closing effort. As the crowd erupted around the 18th green, Rahm simply stood motionless, shaking his head in disbelief and delight.
While Rahm’s performance was lauded by many, not everyone was impressed. Koepka, frustrated with the tie, seemed to take issue with Rahm’s celebration. In a TV interview, Koepka said, “I think me and Scottie birdied, what did we say, 14, we birdied 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and then ‘lost’ (to) two (eagles)… 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.”
Koepka seemed to reference the incident again when asked about his team’s attitude going forward. “We’ll be fine. We’re all grown-ups, we act like grown-ups,” Koepka stated. “Just got to play and see where it puts you.”
Rahm brushed off Koepka’s comments, believing that the “board” comment referred to him hitting a board sideways after leaving a putt short at the 17th hole. Rahm stated, “I kept walking, never stopped, that was it… If Brooks thinks that’s childish, it is what it is. He’s entitled to think what he thinks.”
European captain Luke Donald and American counterpart Zach Johnson also weighed in on the matter. Donald played down Koepka’s criticisms, stating, “Jon was a big support system for Nicolai today… Jon is a passionate person, but I didn’t see him acting any other way.” Johnson sympathized with Koepka’s frustrations but praised Rahm’s skills, saying, “He [Rahm] executed his shot, played the percentages properly… Tip of the cap. Great putt.”
The following day, things didn’t improve for Koepka and Scheffler. The duo suffered a historically crushing defeat in the morning foursomes to young Scandinavian pair Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg. Hovland and Aberg carded seven birdies across eight holes, recording the largest margin of victory for an 18-hole match in Ryder Cup history.
Despite the defeat, Koepka and Scheffler’s performance highlighted the strength of their European opponents. The pair were matched against a five-time major champion and world No. 1 but were undone by Hovland, one of the game’s most in-form players, and Aberg, a 23-year-old Ryder Cup debutant.
The 44th Ryder Cup continues to showcase the intense competition and rivalries between the European and American teams. As tensions rise and emotions run high, it remains to be seen how the players will respond in the remaining matches.