Italian Open Could Be Key To Ending 30 Years Of USA Ryder Cup Hurt

USA captain Zach Johnson wants as many potential Ryder Cup players as possible to play Marco Simone GC before the big event

Zach Johnson named USA Ryder Cup captain for the 2023 match in Rome, Italy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

USA Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson is hoping he can get as many of his potential team as possible over to Rome ahead of the 2023 tournament to try and end 30 years of hurt on European soil.

Getting players all the way over to Italy to look at the course will prove to be a tough ask for Johnson, but one avenue could be getting them to play the Italian Open next May.

Marco Simone Golf and Country Club will host the 2023 Ryder Cup at the end of September next year, but it will also stage the Italian Open on the DP World Tour in May, and while plenty of Europeans will line up, Johnson hopes his American team can peg it up in Rome too.

The Americans were blown away at Le Golf National in 2018 when the French track seemingly caught them off guard, and Johnson wants to make sure they don’t make the same mistake twice by not doing enough work on the ground.

“I've got some plans, it's not for sure yet. I'm hoping to solidify it sooner than later,” said Johnson as he took a look at the course during the “Year to Go” celebrations.

Luke Donald and Zach Johnson will be the captains when Europe take on the USA in the 2023 Ryder Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I'll just say this, the more you can get your team or your potential team on the ground, the better. And that's hard. It's not Wisconsin, or New York, right? So, it's the difficulty of everybody's schedule and getting them on the grounds other than the week of the tournament.”

The Americans were dominant at Whistling Straits last year, and also won by six points with their 17-11 success at Hazeltine back in 2016, but over in Europe it’s been a different story.

They’re big favourites heading to Rome next year, but they’ve been big favourites before heading across the Atlantic, yet they’ve not tasted success on European soil since 1993 at The Belfry.

Johnson was making his first trip to Italy, as many of his team will, and even if they hold a big advantage in respect to the two teams, the travel, new experiences and then the course could all make a difference.

Zach Johnson and Luke Donald

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As for the course itself, Johnson said that it looks a lot different on the ground than in video or pictures – another reason he wants his players to visit in person before the Ryder Cup.

“From my eye, obviously a lot of elevation, way more than meets the videos and the pictures I've seen,” Johnson said.

“Obviously the landscape, but just the vistas of it looks very, very cool. Very thick rough, but fairways that are obviously playable and greens that are up here.”

The European team Johnson will face will look a lot different than the usual one that's lined up the last few years, with the likes of Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson seemingly out of the equation since joining LIV Golf.

A court case in February will determine whether the LIV Gol rebels can continue competing on the DP World Tour and therefore be eligible for the match at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.

With Rory McIlroy leading the calls for LIV players not to be included though, Garcia has already said he won't be putting his name forward and the rest are highly unlikely to get a pick from Luke Donald even if the courts rule them eligible. 

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.