ROME, ITALY | Beneath a sky as blue as the colour of the European Union flag and a sun as bright as in a child’s painting, the 44th Ryder Cup was formally opened at teatime Thursday. On the bare hills northeast of Rome, the music blared, the crowd roared and the sun blazed.
It was noisy, partisan, good-natured and did everything necessary to get golf’s greatest three-day event off on the right foot. The flags of Italy as the host nation, the U.S. and Europe were hoisted in the right order and fluttered as they rose slowly up the flagpoles. The stirring tones of the European anthem, “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, echoed gently around the arena.
As opening ceremonies go, this one went almost as far as a Ludvig Åberg drive and was as accurate as a Jordan Spieth putt. For one thing, it was held onsite, unlike at the recent Solheim Cup, where the ceremony was an hour’s drive from the venue in southern Spain. It kept to length, which hadn’t happened in 2008. And it had no blatant and bloated patriotism when Ray Floyd, the captain of the U.S. team, rather impolitely and inaccurately described his men as the 12 best golfers in the world at the gala dinner before the 1989 match at The Belfry in England. (Note: The U.S. tied the ensuing match as Europe, the defending champion, retained the cup.)
The 60-minute ceremony was transmitted to a worldwide audience of 100 million as we repeatedly were told by the enthusiastic Briton who did the warm-up proceedings. It deftly balanced mild partisanship with a welcome, old-fashioned courtesy from and to the captains and the teams, the authorities, the spectators, the players, even the caddies. Such gentility seemed reminiscent of a quieter world, a bygone age, which was all of a piece in the grounds of a 1,000-year-old castello, albeit one that now is the venue of Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
In Paris five years ago, in the country of Charles Aznavour and of Édith Piaf, we were urged endlessly to shout “olé, olé, olé.” There was plenty of urging to “make more noise” or “Bring the Noise” in the country of Luciano Pavarotti and Enrico Caruso, but the overall feeling was that Rome 2023 was more Italian than Paris 2018 had been French.
For the captains, having to speak can be an ordeal. For the spectators, having to listen sometimes can be an ordeal, too. Zach Johnson smiled, golly-goshed and thumbed-up his way through his speech in a way that suggested he was slightly nervous and far from at ease at having to do such a thing. He wasn’t helped by a flypast of jets trailing clouds in the Italian colours that interrupted his words not once but twice.
He did his best with a burst of Italian that was appreciated by those of the host nation. As tradition demanded, he summoned his men in their dark suits and white shirts to their feet one by one. Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth brought some cutting-edge fashion to the proceedings by appearing to be sockless.
Luke Donald began his speech with a flourish of Italian, going on for 10 or more sentences, and the reaction to this can be judged by the Italian journalist who stiffened with pride at Donald’s words and applauded the Englishman vigorously when he returned to his native tongue. Not that he needed it, but Donald helped his cause of winning over those listening to him when he revealed that he and his wife, Diane Antonopoulos, had taken their honeymoon in Sardinia.
Then came the high point of the ceremony, the public announcement by the captains of the pairings for Friday morning’s opening foursomes. No sooner had Johnson said “Mr. Scottie Scheffler and Mr. Sam Burns” [and his rather formal use of the word “mister” was striking] than “ooohs” and “aaahs” arose from the listeners. Donald replied more simply: “Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.” Cue more “ooohs” and “aaahs.” And so it proceeded until all four matches had been named and the speculation was able to begin.
This opening ceremony was on point. If what follows over the coming days is vigorous yet respectful of golf’s traditions and generally as good-natured as was the opening ceremony, then we are in for what the late Sam Ryder, the moustachioed Englishman who began this wonderful competition in 1927, might himself have called “a jolly good show” in the Eternal City.
Top: The Frecce Tricolori (Tricolour Arrows) perform a display over the crowd and stage during the opening ceremony. (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?