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Europe win Ryder Cup: Captain Luke Donald looks back on Rory McIlroy’s spat and spirit of Seve

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Europe had put on a sensational performance, including going unbeaten on the opening day. Part of that was due to Jon Rahm’s extraordinary eagles at the 16th and 18th holes in the Friday fourballs against Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka.

A sign of the home side’s spirit was how at ease rookie Nicolai Hojgaard felt playing alongside the Masters champion in that match. When it came to the final hole, Rahm faced a lengthy putt for a three on the closing par-five to snatch an unlikely half.

“It sounds like a cliche moment, but I said ‘just go for it’, I mean it doesn’t matter if you leave it six or nine feet long,” 22-year-old Hojgaard told the programme. “They are going to make birdie and we need to make an eagle.

“I actually said to him ‘do it for Seve’, him being Spanish. Rahm’s got that Seve thing in him. It just happened all in the moment. Nothing was planned, I just said it.”

Rahm fired the putt at the hole and his ball popped into the air off the back lip before disappearing. “It’s something we laughed about after and it’s something we can talk about when we are 60 years old,” Hojgaard added.

His Spanish partner smiled: “I think Seve would have had better speed, but yeah, Nicolai was a great partner. We knew what to say to each other to motivate us.”

The podcast hears exclusive recollections from almost every player in the European line-up, as well as the captain himself. Donald reveals how he persuaded all of his team to attend a crucial pre-match Rome recce to generate the spirit that drove them to victory.

“I tried to make it sound like it was a non negotiable, that they needed to be a part of this practice trip,” the captain said. “If Ryder Cup means so much to them, which is what most of them say, then prove it.”

Having trailed 6½-1½ after the first day, the US mounted a more spirited comeback attempt and there were periods in the final session when the home skipper worried that it had all been for nothing. “It got a bit stressful for a while,” he recalled.

But Tommy Fleetwood took Europe to the promised land when he won the 16th against Rickie Fowler on that breathless Sunday afternoon. “It felt unreal, from relief to joy to kind of a little bit of exhaustion,” said the Englishman.

“You just felt so satisfied with what happened.”

It was a defining moment for Donald, who was only appointed captain after Henrik Stenson joined the breakaway LIV tour in July 2022. “I get a little choked up just thinking about it now to be honest,” the former world number one admitted.

“I think it was the whole build up. The situation that got me into the captaincy, the 14 months of preparation. It was the greatest moment in my professional career.”

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