Rónán MacNamara in Rome
Rory McIlroy praised Team Europe captain Luke Donald’s tactical preparation after the hosts completed a foursomes whitewash to roar into a 4-0 lead over the USA on Friday morning in Marco Simone.
McIlroy played alongside Tommy Fleetwood in the anchor match of the foursomes session as their 2&1 win over Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele secured a rapid start for Donald’s side.
Donald’s decision to flip the formats to foursomes then four balls paid dividends and McIlroy revealed how the Englishman had tailored his team for a fast start.
“It’s been an unbelievable session. We switched the format this year to go foursomes first because statistically that’s our better session. And all week, all we’ve been talking about is getting off to fast starts,” said the now seven-time Ryder Cup player. “Playing three-hole matches in practise, three holes, go again, three holes, go again, something that Luke’s drilled into us. We were ready to go from the first tee shot as obviously as you can see in how everyone played.”
USA may have the world number one in Scottie Scheffler but Europe have three of the top four players in the world. Donald also appears to be leaning on them with McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm selected to play in the afternoon four balls as Nicolai Hojgaard and Robert MacIntyre were drafted in for their debuts while Justin Rose and Matthew Fitzpatrick were also sent in to bat.
“Amazing to sweep a session. I can’t remember the last time Europe has done that. We can’t get complacent at all. This is an unbelievably long American Team. Last week the American girls went up 4-0 in the first session there and Europe were able to come back, so we are not taking anything for granted here. It’s a great start but we need to keep our foot on the pedal and keep winning points.”