GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — The final score is in: Europe beat the United States 16½-11½. Europe won back the the Ryder Cup on Sunday, just like it always does before its raucous crowd, with Rory McIlroy leading the way and Tommy Fleetwood delivering the decisive point to extend its dominance over the Americans on home soil.
The outcome was never seriously in doubt at Marco Simone. Europe started the final day with a five-point lead. McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton put the Europeans on the verge of the cup, forcing the Americans to win the remaining five matches on the course.
Just like everything else this week, there was little chance of that. McIlroy was still fired up over what he perceived to be bad behavior by Patrick Cantlay's caddie on the 18th green the previous evening. He won his match to cap a 4-1 week and was Europe's top scorer for the first time in the Ryder Cup.
And then Fleetwood hit a signature shot on the signature hole, a drive to 25 feet on the reachable 16th. Rickie Fowler hit into the water and eventually conceded a short birdie to Fleetwood that assured Europe the 14 1/2 points it needed to claim the 17-inch gold trophy.
The celebration was on, just like it always is on European soil, with one exception. The first Ryder Cup in Italy brought its share of chaos as fans raced toward the edge of the 18th green to watch the final match that only decided a result for the record book:
Europe 16 1/2, United States 11 1/2. The Americans were coming off a record 19-9 win over Europe two years ago at Whistling Straits, confident this would be time they ended 30 years of losing away from home. Make it 34. They won't get another chance until Adare Manor in Ireland in 2027.
“We were so disappointed after Whistling Straits. We all were,” said McIlroy, who was in tears at the last Ryder Cup. “We wanted to come to Rome and redeem ourselves. I just knew I needed to put in a better performance for my team this week.”
“I think the European team played some phenomenal golf. I think it really is quite that simple,” U.S. captain Zach Johnson said, his voice choking to the point it was hard for him to complete a sentence. “Team USA will be better for it. We'll figure it out.”
Scrutiny is sure to follow. His six captain's picks combined to win four matches all week. Only three Americans played a tournament in the five weeks since the PGA Tour season ended.
But this was more about Team Europe. “This team felt on a bit of a mission,” Justin Rose said. “This win was clinical and a wonderful performance from day one. Relentless.”
Europe went into the singles session knowing no team had ever come back from a five-point deficit on Sunday. The Americans made them sweat, but only briefly.
Rahm won the 18th hole to earn a half-point against Scottie Scheffler. Hatton completed an unbeaten week by beating British Open champion Brian Harman. Hovland put the first blue point on the board in a win over Collin Morikawa.
All Europe needed was one more halve, and Fleetwood assured that with a 2-up lead with two holes to play against Fowler. Among the few bright spots for the Americans were Cantlay and Max Homa. Europe was on the verge of victory, needing only for Matt Fitzpatrick to win the 18th hole for a halve. That looked probable when Homa caught a lie in rough so deep and gnarly near a bunker that he took a penalty drop on the advice of his caddie.
He pitched beautifully to 7 feet and holed the par putt for a 1-up win. “Did you see my legs shaking?” he said to caddie Joe Greiner. That only delayed the European win. Homa went 3-1-1 for the week, the best of the Americans.
Cantlay gave his team momentum even in the face of fierce heckling for not wearing a hat and a Sky Sports report he called “outright lies” that he was not wearing a hat to protest not being paid to play. For two days, thousands of fans waved their caps at Cantlay, who never flinched.
He birdied his last three holes Saturday evening in fourballs, and then McIlroy was furious with caddie Joe LaCava for continuing to celebrate as McIlroy still had a putt.
McIlroy said he used it as fuel. “I didn't let it take away from what's been a fantastic week,” he said. “I think what transpired on that last green gave us a fire in the belly to get the job done.”
But it was clear that hard feelings lingered when he was asked on TV if a meeting with LaCava allowed them to put it behind them. “I haven't met Joe,” McIlroy said flatly. He repeated the same phrase after another question.
The only mood that mattered was pure joy, with Europeans leaping into the water to celebrate a win they badly needed.
The Americans still lead the overall series in the Ryder Cup dating to 1927. But since Europe joined the party in 1979 — the modern era — Europe now has a 12-9-1 advantage.
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