On the opening practice day ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, half of the 12-strong European team met with the media to look ahead to the 44th edition of golf’s greatest team contest.
From experienced members of the hosts’ team in two-time Major Champion Jon Rahm to rookie Ludvig Åberg, discussion ranged from the influence of home crowds, the emotional bond created between teammates, the course's finishing stretch and first-tee nerves.
Tommy Fleetwood: The crowds are there to lift you at all times, and I think when it's going well, you absolutely ride the wave of a home crowd and the momentum that they are creating: the cheers, the sound, the noise, that's amazing, and you know that they are there to lift you up if it's not going so well.
It is definitely an advantage to have the home crowd around. You look at Ryder Cup moments, putts holed or shots hit, the crowd is part of that.
The reaction you get, the roars that you get, they play a huge part in your memory.
I think they bring that as well. So far in my career, there's nothing like playing in front of a home crowd and I know this one will be the same.
Tommy Fleetwood: I think it's a much more emotional week than what we are used to. You are all just very zoned in in what you're doing, and you have your particular team of a few people around you.
It's a week that people dream of in their careers... You're all playing for each other and we all feel very, very strongly about the Ryder Cup and the tournament.
We feel it's a massive privilege to have the responsibility of carrying on the legacy of European golf and European players in the Ryder Cup and I think we are all very aware of that and anybody that's been involved in the European Ryder Cups over the years make sure that's always at the front of our minds when we get here.
Tommy Fleetwood: I think Luke's been unbelievable. Watching him speak through this whole process and having him around, I think everybody has just loved his captaincy, the way he's gone about things.
I think we are all looking forward to playing for him and under him in the Ryder Cup.
Tommy Fleetwood: I think it would be great for Francesco and Edoardo (Molinari) [if Europe won on Italian soil]. What a special time for their country to have the two brothers that have kind of been the face of Italian golf for a long time now.
YeI know both of them would always rather be playing, that's just how we feel as players. But I think having them involved, it's special for them as well.
On a personal level, I'm still so, so close to Fran and Valentina and the family, and always being around him or at dinners during the day and chatting to him during the day is very, very cool for me. Again, he might not have been there in Whistling Straits, but I've been very close to him in my Ryder Cup journey, if you like. He's played a huge part in that so far.
Sepp Straka: I feel like I've known all of the [European] players for quite a while now. I don't think there's anybody that I haven't known for less than four or five years.
Getting to spend more time around them, more quality time around them, practise rounds, has been great. Started with the practise trip a couple weeks ago.
The team bonding has been incredible. Team dinners and all that has been a lot of fun.
Sepp Straka: My mum, who is American, has been wearing an Austria hat all last week while she was in Austria.
I think they are all Team Europe. Even my mum, who grew up in the States, is a hundred per cent American. She spent 24 years in Austria. She's fallen in love with the country, and I think she's probably just as Austrian as a lot of Austrians are.
Sepp Straka: It’s [the rough] very thick, and especially out of the fairways, the blades are really thick and it's very different than anything you see almost anywhere.
The ball comes out pretty slow most of the time, you definitely want to spend a lot of time especially around the greens, getting the feel right, and preparing for that.
It's a good course. It will be great for match play. There are a lot of high-risk reward shots and a couple of drivable par fours and reachable par fives. I think that will be really fun to watch and really fun to play.
I really like number five. I think it's a really cool reachable par four. The finishing stretch is great. 16, 17, 18 is great - three incredible holes. That's probably my favourite stretch on the course.
Sepp Straka: You've got to lean on those guys (Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose). It's incredible how many Ryder Cups they have been a part of and been successful in.
A typical question like 'What do you on the first tee box when you can't feel your arms' kind of thing. But, overall the goal is you've just got to play golf. Just sharing stories and hearing stories from them has been helpful.
Ludvig Åberg: I do think one of the things that I do quite well is that whenever I'm playing golf, I have a pretty high level of acceptance.
I'm a pretty calm guy. I don't get too high. So hopefully I won't get too angry this week, either.
Ludvig Åberg: But it's really cool the way that these last couple of months has panned out for me. It's been quite intense and you know, I'm trying to embrace it. I try to enjoy it. But it's really cool to be here.
Ludvig Åberg: I wish I never got nervous! I think obviously anyone that plays golf, you know, feels the nerves sometimes. So do I, obviously. And I'm going to feel those same things on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this week.
But you know, it's very much an excitement. It's very much an anticipation of what's to come and I try to view it as something good. It doesn't necessarily need to, you know, affect my behaviour in a poor way. It's more of something that, you know, it shows that I care. So I'm looking forward to having those feelings again.
Ludvig Åberg: I don't think without the PGA TOUR University I would be here. For me I owe a lot to the PGA TOUR University programme and what they have done and what they are continuing to do.
They are continuing to develop the programme, and I know it's going to make college golf better. It's going to make amateur golf better and eventually it's going to make pro golf better, too. It's very cool, and I'm lucky to be the first guy to take advantage of this.
Shane Lowry: I think being a part of something that is bigger than you or anything else is pretty cool, and I think Whistling Straits was hard to take. But it was quite motivating for me coming away from that, and it's quite motivating for me this week.
I'm looking forward to going out there and hopefully earning some points for Europe, and hopefully we can all do a great job at trying to win the trophy back.
Shane Lowry: There are videos that are played in the team rooms in the evenings, motivational videos, and just kind of hits home a little bit.
I'm not going to elaborate much further than that, but Luke and his team have done a great job already this week on Monday and Tuesday.
I'm excited for what's to come the rest of the week.
Shane Lowry: Obviously it feels a lot different because I've been here before. Been in the environment and all that. But also this is my first home Ryder Cup.
There's going to be a few challenges that I might have to fight with myself over. You have to control your emotions out there. You don't want to let your emotions get the better of you.
Shane Lowry: Anybody would want to play with Rory. He's one of the best players in the world. He's one of the best players in my opinion - he's in the top players of all time already, and he's not even nearly finished. It would be nice to go out there with him.
Jon Rahm: When you've done it a couple times, you almost know what to expect, and in a way, the sense of anticipation for the Ryder Cup, it's emphasised a little bit more just because I know and we do know what's to come this week and how much fun it's going to be.
It's definitely been special the last few weeks being at home and letting yourself think about it a little bit. It's been fun.
The greatest thing of the Ryder Cup, apart from winning, obviously, is going in that team room and seeing all these great golfers come together and really be a team and be friends and have a really special, unique bond throughout the week.
Jon Rahm: At the end of the day, it's match play, and it's all about doing the best job you can to beat the person in front of you that session, that's really it.
Whatever you've done before... it's a different atmosphere, a different environment, so [world ranking] doesn't really matter.
Jon Rahm: I can go 0-5 and if the team wins I'll be really happy. As long as we win, I don't care. As long as we get to 14½ points, what I do doesn't really matter.
Jon Rahm: I understand that they're here wanting to prove why they're here and make their mark as rookies, but there's always something to learn from some of the great players.
I don't necessarily mean golf-wise, it's just how they process, how they deal with a week like this. I think that curiosity is very, very important.
Viktor Hovland: It's been a great year for me. Played a lot of good golf, but this is the Ryder Cup, and that all kind of goes out the window. You're here to perform for the team, and obviously after what happened two years ago, I think we're all pretty motivated to get the Cup back to Europe.
I think we're all just having a blast, and we're going to try to get the best out of our game as possible this week.
Viktor Hovland: We certainly met a very strong U.S. Team [at Whistling Straits], and it was hard to get those points. I felt like I played okay, but I lacked the special things in the matches to where you really flip the momentum around and you can build on a big putt or an up-and-down or maybe a chip-in or something like that. That just wasn't there.
Viktor Hovland: It's cool to have [the three best players on the Official World Golf Ranking] on the team. It gives you maybe a little bit of extra confidence or you feel a little bit better about the week, but we've still got to go out there and play like the best players in the world, and we've got to get some points for our team.
Viktor Hovland (on the dynamics of foursomes play): We're both teammates, and we're trying to create a rapport where one guy can trust the other and vice versa.
I think it's more just about creating trust. I don't think it's one guy has to say, 'I'll take the ownership of everything'. I think it's more, 'what do I have to do to fill this partnership?' I think we just try to lean on each other in that way.