Everything has led to this

Ryder Cup: GolfMagic news editor Ben Smith teases the 2023 Ryder Cup at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy. 

Everything has led to this

ROME - As you enter the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club you are immediately reminded of Ryder Cup history. 

It is absolutely impossible to ignore. There are pictures of European icons everywhere. 

Witness dreams, a caption on one reads alongside the late Seve Ballesteros. The others? Witness drama. Witness greatness. Witness honour. Witness passion. Witness victory. Witness miracles. 

A little over the top? Maybe. But there is a sense of inevitability we will see all of the above over the next three days.

This is the Ryder Cup. This is pure sport. This is golf on steroids. 

Luke Donald's Europe have a shot of redemption. They have a 30-year unbeaten home record to defend in one of the most unbelievable Ryder Cup venues in recent memory. 

Padraig Harrington was the last man to lead the troops into battle. His side were overawed. Whitewashed. A record 19-9 defeat. Rory McIlroy an absolute mess.

Now we have cool hand Luke. A Ryder Cup legend in his own right, having amassed 10.5 points from a possible 15 in his playing days. 

Underestimate him at your peril. 

Meticulous Donald also has a secret weapon: a stats guru nicknamed Dodo. 

Dodo is Edoardo Molinari, the brother of 2018 Open champion Francesco. 

Edoardo has crunched the numbers and has backed Donald and his vice captains to place their faith in a 23-year-old Swede who has never played in a major championship: Ludvig Aberg.

The buzz around this fella cannot be understated. How do you handle someone who hits it straight and miles and does everything else brilliantly? The U.S. could be in for the shock of their lives. 

McIlroy wants to be the 'older brother' of this side but he is undeniably the team leader. He is flanked by Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland

Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose, Matthew FitzpatrickShane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood provide a strong backbone that have replaced the old guard. 

Ah yes, the old guard. The outcasts. The LIV rebels. Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell are not involved in any capacity after they went to the dark side. 

"I'm bitter," McDowell conceded to The Telegraph as he wrestled with the idea of burying his head in the sand for the next 72 hours. 

"They'll miss us more than we miss them," McIlroy said. 

Poults has wished the team well. As did McDowell. Westwood? Conspicuous in his silence. 

Donald also three more rookies in Scotland's Robert MacIntyre, Dane Nicolai Hojgaard and Austria's Sepp Straka to think of. 

Will the occasion get to them? Only time will tell. 

It was speculated we were witnessing the beginning of a new era two years ago at Whistling Straits. An era of dominance for the red, white and blue. 

But as we have edged closer to this contest, it has become almost impossible to call. 

The U.S. will be led in the opening match by World No.1 Scottie Scheffler and his best mate, a rookie, Sam Burns

Elsewhere, skipper Zach Johnson has three major champions from 2023: Open champion Brian Harman, U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark and golf's ultimate lone wolf Brooks Koepka who put five on it at the PGA Championship. 

Steely operators Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay compliment the team well, Max Homa appears made for team golf whereas Johnson has also put his faith in Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and the ever-popular Rickie Fowler.

The team has combined to win 15 majors compared to Europe's nine. 

"Really at peace with where things are," Johnson said on Thursday evening. "Really confident in my 12 guys." 

We wouldn't expect him to say anything different. Will he be thinking the same on Saturday evening? 

Only time will tell.

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