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Full Swing: Key Ryder Cup takeaways from second series

Full Swing: Key Ryder Cup takeaways from second series

By Mathieu Wood

The second instalment of Netflix’s documentary series Full Swing is back on our screens, including a behind-the-scenes focus on the 2023 Ryder Cup.

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The final two episodes, titled All Roads Lead to Rome, detail the 44th edition of golf’s greatest team competition at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome. 

Featuring Team Europe Captain Luke Donald and his United States counterpart Zach Johnson, along with inserts from players on both sides, along with analysis from members of the media, the show brings fans closer to the key events that unfolded both on and off the course.

Here are some key takeaways.

Donald’s ‘proudest moment’

Captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team is arguably the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon a European player in their career.

Donald, a former World Number One, represented Europe on four occasions as a player between 2004 and 2012, being part of a winning team on all four occasions.

He tells the documentary a “wave of emotions” initially came over him upon getting the role, including doubts over whether he could be “a leader” for the team.

“When you have opportunities like these arise, there are always those doubts, but I think you have to walk towards them because your potential always exists on the other side of fear,” he added.

In the documentary, his wife Diane says his husband – twice a Vice Captain – was in an “in-between stage” in his career, finding it harder to compete on Tour.

But she adds, "Luke does really well with a project."

Facing a US side that featured seven Major winners and with every player in the top 30 in the world, the task was tough.

However, he oversaw a team from nine different nationalities - a joint record in a Ryder Cup since the introduction of Team European in 1979 - to a 16½-11½ victory, erasing the pain from defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021.

In an interview by the 18th green, a tearful Donald described leading Europe to victory as the “proudest moment” of his career.

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Redemption for Rory

Rory McIlroy is one of the world’s most accomplished players of his generation. Since his debut in 2010, he has been a part of every edition of the biennial contest.

After defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021, the Northern Irishman cut a tearful figure, saying: “The more and more I play in this event I realise that it is the best event in golf bar none.”

As the player on the European team with the most experience in the Ryder Cup arena, he was intent on playing a major part in ensuring Europe regained the cup.

And that is exactly what he did.


McIlroy, who mathematically secured automatic qualification with weeks to spare, recalled how he felt the hosts were playing with a ‘chip on our shoulder’ as the slight underdogs, something he relished.

He won four points from five, his only loss coming alongside Matt Fitzpatrick in the Saturday afternoon four-balls as Patrick Cantlay finished birdie-birdie-birdie to snatch a victory.

Much is made in the Full Swing episode of the celebrations following that particular match, with tensions briefly spilling over into the car park afterwards. 

But McIlroy used the incident “to his advantage”, defeating Sam Burns – who won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play earlier in the season – to produce his best overall individual performance at the Ryder Cup.

New era for Europe

Heading into last year’s Ryder Cup, Team Europe were in a transitional period as McIlroy put it.

“A lot of the narrative around the European Ryder Cup team is, will they struggle? They don’t have those experienced veterans on the team,” he tells the documentary.

“But to me this is a new era for Europe, this is a young team, and this is what we are going to go for, and we are going to go forward.”

While there were seven who teed it up at Whistling Straits, the team featured plenty of new blood – five new faces for that matter.

The narrative, in certain quarters, was that while there was plenty of talent, their inexperience on golf’s biggest stage would be a huge hinderance to the hosts’ challenge.

McIlroy is heard speaking to rookie Nicolai Højgaard and reassuring the Dane has nothing to prove. He had earned his Captain’s Pick through his form on both sides of the Atlantic and should only focus on displaying his ability.

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“Luke and the guys, they already have a plan for all of us, so, like, this (the practice rounds) are just to know the course," he says.

“We all want to play well just so we feel confident going in, but we’re not trying to prove anything. You’ve already proved it. You’re here because you’re a good player.”

All five first-time Ryder Cup players played their part, but the performance of Ludvig Åberg alongside fellow Scandinavian Viktor Hovland – with the duo winning two of their three matches together – is perhaps a source of great optimism for Europe going forward.

Åberg, who was the first player to play in a Ryder Cup before appearing in a Major Championship, made further history with a 9&7 victory – the largest in the event’s history – over World Number One Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka in Saturday’s morning foursomes.

Rose uses 2021 Ryder Cup setback as motivation to prove his worth

Amid all the new emerging talent in European golf, several of whom played their way into the Donald’s team, experience was always likely to be a key attribute.

In Justin Rose, a Major Champion, they had an ideal team member whose knowledge of pressure moments on golf’s world stages was second to none.

“I turned pro at the tender age of 17 so I have been a pro longer than I haven’t is what I like to tell people now,” he says during a section devoted to the 43-year-old Englishman.

I am not ready to fade away, this is what I am made for. I still believe I have got it - Justin Rose

After missing out on the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits for just the second time since his debut in 2008, Rose was reliant on a Captain’s Pick to be a part of the team this time around.

“The Ryder Cup has definitely been an inspirational tournament for me but unfortunately I didn’t qualify outright,” he adds.

“I am not ready to fade away, this is what I am made for. I still believe I have got it.”

Despite returning to the winner’s circle on the PGA TOUR earlier in the year at Pebble Beach, he was reliant on a pick from Donald.

On the day when Donald is seen making his Captain’s Picks, Rose is filmed waiting at his home in Virginia Water, England alongside his family. When the call arrives, Rose celebrates with a fist pump – characteristic of the passion he has for the Ryder Cup.

Rose relished his role as Team Europe's elder statesman and in Friday’s afternoon fourball session, alongside partner Robert MacIntyre, he sunk a crucial putt on the 18th hole to secure a half point for the hosts.

“Down to the last putt of the day,” he reflects. I just didn’t want to be the only match on the golf course that saw red putt on the board. I could see red on the leaderboard and that was really pissing me off.”

Rose, who went on to record a full point in Saturday’s fourballs, was widely praised by rookie MacIntyre for helping him after the Scotsman admitted he was left “almost crying” ahead of his first taste of the event.

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