For the first time in history, the Ryder Cup pays a visit to Rome, Italy, where Marco Simone Golf Club awaits some of the best players in the world.
American players do not have much experience with this picturesque layout, but many on Team Europe do.
Marco Simone has hosted the DP World Tour’s DS Automobiles Italian Open for the past three years.
In 2021, Nicholai Højgaard, who will make his Ryder Cup debut this week, won the Italian Open by a stroke over Tommy Fleetwood and Adrian Meronk. Højgaard’s victory two years ago was his first DP World Tour victory.
Then, last year, Robert MacIntyre defeated Matthew Fitzpatrick in a playoff, which marked the second instance in which the Scotsman triumphed on the DP World Tour.
And most recently, Meronk, who was overlooked for this year’s Ryder Cup, won the Italian Open in early May.
The European team knows this course well, but it is undoubtedly foreign territory for Team USA and its fans.
Alas, let us look at four critical holes on the back nine at Marco Simone, where matches will be decided:
Hole 13 – Par 3, 150 Yards
When standing on the tee at this little par-3, you are immediately reminded of being in the seven hills of Rome.
It is perhaps the most picturesque hole on the course.
The Italian countryside extends as far as the eye can see, but do not let the beauty take away from the fact that this is one of the toughest greens on the course.
A large knoll runs through the middle of this green, so players must hit their tee shots on the proper tier. If they miss, a three-putt lurks around the corner.
Considering match play always comes down to putting, this putting surface will undoubtedly have an impact throughout the Ryder Cup.
Hole 14 – Par 4, 509 Yards
Perhaps the most challenging tee shot on the course, players must hit a right-to-left tee ball to find the fairway on this dogleg left par-4.
Two devilish fairway bunkers will swallow any tee shot that misses left, while gnarly rough awaits those tee balls that miss right.
The landing area is quite narrow.
If players do not find the fairway on the 14th, they will have little to no chance of finding the putting surface, which is somewhat elevated and features a false front.
One bunker lurks to the right of the green, while another lies short and left.
The trap on the left should rarely come into play, but the deep bunker on the right will see some action.
This may prove to be the most difficult hole on the course.
Hole 16 – Par 4, 303 Yards
A true risk-reward hole.
Every player in the Ryder Cup has the length to reach this green off the tee, but the question is, will they do so?
If someone finds themselves down in a match, perhaps they pull out the big stick and try to stick it on the green to spark some magic. Or in fourballs, maybe one player gives the green a go while the other lays up to the generously wide fairway in front of the pond.
The bunker in the middle of the fairway sticks out like a sore thumb, so players must avoid it should they choose to lay up.
But laying up could have a price. The fairway slopes downward towards the tributary that runs 50 yards short of the green, meaning players could face a downhill lie for their second shot. Those are always difficult to control from short range, considering the lower trajectory a downhill shot forces.
On the flip side, if a player decides to give the green a go, they must fit their tee shots between two bunkers and avoid the water that extends up the right side of the green.
Hole 17 – Par 3, 206 Yards
The penultimate hole at Marco Simone is a gorgeous, uphill par-3 that will test the world’s best players.
The tributary that bisects the 16th fairway runs down the left side of the 17th. Any shot pulled or anything that caroms off the sidehill to the left of the green is at risk of finding the water.
But the right side of the green has numerous undulations, so accuracy will prove pivotal. The green is rather long, so do not be surprised to see players hit various clubs from the tee.
This difficult par-3 will likely decide numerous matches this week.