This was no mere drubbing, it was a disgrace. On a pristine autumnal morning here at Marco Simone, Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, the world No 1 and a five-time major champion, contrived to succumb 9&7 to a player competing in just his second Ryder Cup and one who only turned professional four months ago. Scheffler, crying into the arms of his wife Meredith, at least looked suitably humiliated by the scoreline. Koepka, graceless until the end, did not even bother removing his cap for the handshakes.
It would be difficult to conceive of a more pathetic performance by golfers of this pedigree. On paper, this was the most formidable US duo that captain Zach Johnson could have fielded. And yet they were marmalised, by the largest 18-hole margin in the history of this event, by twin Scandinavian prodigies Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg. Just as a reminder, Aberg, 23 and fresh out of college in Texas, has yet to tee it up at a major.
Their own team-mates could scarcely comprehend it. “9&7?” Justin Thomas said to his caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, open-mouthed. Perhaps the most galling aspect was that Hovland and Aberg did not have to play out of their skins to administer this historic trouncing. They began with a sequence of par, par, bogey, and still left the third green three up as Scheffler and Koepka conveyed the air of disengaged hackers.
When the end came at the 11th, it had become a capitulation so abject you could not turn away. No sooner had Scheffler aimlessly wafted his chip through the green than Koepka, barely bothering to take a practice swing, sculled the ball 20ft past before conceding. He likes to show some alpha-male swagger, Koepka. Only the night before, he had petulantly accused Jon Rahm of acting like “a child” for daring to celebrate two eagles in his final three holes. But nobody was buying the John Wayne act, least of all Hovland and Aberg, who duly subjected him to the Ryder Cup’s most savage beatdown of all.
Koepka is capable of extreme obnoxiousness when the mood takes him. At an ice hockey match in Florida in February, he was spotted verbally abusing a player, while using a traffic cone as a prop. And after being restricted to a half in the Friday fourballs by Rahm’s late burst of brilliance, he was supremely churlish, criticising the Spaniard when his eagle putt at the last hit the back of the cup and bounced in. “I want to hit a board and pout just like Jon Rahm did,” Koepka said. “But it is what it is. Act like a child. But we’re adults, we move on.”
Truth be told, Koepka is not on the firmest ground taking somebody else to task for immaturity. For several months in 2021, he maintained a tedious frat-boy feud with Bryson DeChambeau, proceeding to monetise the charade with a tasteless hit-and-giggle in Las Vegas. But against Ryder Cup opponents of this quality, his posturing has been punished. It underscores the old maxim that it is one thing to trash-talk, but quite another to back it up.
Scheffler in tears after slipping to record defeat
Scheffler broke down in tears and was consoled by his wife after his foursomes pairing collapsed to the worst defeat in Ryder Cup history.
Amid scenes of disbelief at Marco Simone, Hovland and Aberg inflicted abject humiliation on Scheffler and Koepka with a 9&7 trouncing.
With the abject Americans already imploding in Rome, Hovland and Aberg romped to the biggest ever margin to send a shell-shocked Scheffler back to the clubhouse by 10.20am.
LIV rebel Koepka, who stirred up tensions on Friday with an attack on Rahm, was visibly fuming, and did not remove his cap off for the handshakes.
But Scheffler was distraught, with footage showing him in tears and burying his face in his hands as his wife, Meredith, put her arm around him.
'Anybody who thinks the Americans don't care about this, you're seeing it right here...' 🇺🇲😞 pic.twitter.com/AOduU7cLmR
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) September 30, 2023
The scoreline had inflicted humiliation on two of the US team’s most prominent names, beating all records in Ryder Cup history, authorities confirmed.
Prior to Saturday morning, the largest margin of victory ever had been 8&7, twice achieved in singles matches (Couples v Woosnam, 1987; Kite versus Clark 1989).
A 7&6 in the foursomes has been produced three times but they were all by American teams. The biggest ever Europe win, in any format, had been 7&5. Such stats underline the magnitude of an odds-defying triumph – Aberg is world No 80, while Scheffler is still ranked as the world’s best. Scheffler’s emotion afterwards came as it dawned on him that he had fallen to the worst result in American Ryder Cup history.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods’ losing in 2004 at Oakland Hills reverberated down the years. But this was even more humbling, with Hovland and Aberg rock solid and Koepka and Scheffler rotten.
The American pair were five over par for the first three holes as they crumbled. Hovland and Aberg were one over par for the first three holes but won them all, before Aberg almost made a hole-in-one on the fourth.
Another birdie on the sixth took the European pair five up and with both American players struggling badly, it was only a matter of time before they were put out of their misery.
That extended the home side’s lead to six points and it looked like there would be more to come as Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood were three up with six to play against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the opening foursomes.
Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton were ahead by the same margin in the bottom match against Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, with Brian Harman and Max Homa putting the only American red on the board as they led Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka by one hole after 10.
Europe captain Luke Donald had warned his side to be wary of the US players reacting like “a wounded animal” as they looked to overturn a record-equalling five-point deficit, but the only wounds on show were entirely self-inflicted.