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It’s been an entertaining first 24 hours in Rome for our man – so he wrote it down. For therapeutic reasons, if anything else…

Italy’s lovely, isn’t it? I think as I gaze through my plane window at the sun setting over the Mediterranean coastline that flanks the west side of the country’s capital city. You can see why they want the Ryder Cup in Rome.  

I’ve been to Italy before, of course. What was meant to be a romantic getaway with my then girlfriend ended up involving the mummified remains of the former residents of Pompeii and the world’s scariest bus journey around the Amalfi coast from Sorrento to Positano. They say it’s one of the most beautiful drives in the world. I wouldn’t know – my eyes were shut. 

Once I grab my bag off the belt, I feel a twinge of childlike excitement. I’ve booked a transfer from the airport to my hotel, you see, and they tell me they’re going to be waiting in arrivals holding a sign with my name on. So I can tick that box on my list of entirely insignificant things to do before I die.   

But as I walk through the big doors and into the cigarette smoke-filled air, my phone pings. “We regret to inform you that your driver has been rear-ended and we cannot find a replacement.” Oh well, maybe next time. 

So I jump in a Roma cab and the driver screeches the name of my hotel into his phone. He looks back at me: “Seatbelt?” 

“Si,” I reply, nervously.  

“Good,” he says, in a manner that would only have been more terrifying if it had been uttered by Freddy Krueger. “20 minutes.” 

Half an hour and alive is also fine. 

So off we set around the A90 on a death-defying journey. Twenty-four hours later and my knuckles have just returned to their natural colour. A motorbike pulls alongside us with its sirens blazing. I panic. It speeds off ahead of us. I relax, and reach for my list. ‘Be part of a high-speed police chase.’ Tick.   

What on earth does a driving test in Italy entail? This pedal makes it go, this wheel makes it turn. 

But I’m here for golf, so let’s get up to Marco Simone. 

Even that 15-minute journey is packed with drama, as several police vehicles come blazing up alongside us, with the European team’s bus in hot pursuit. When you’re a multi-millionaire, you get places on time.

First observations once we arrive? Holy hell it’s hot. Like, uncomfortably hot. Dammit, people, this is the Ryder Cup! Where are the blue and red beanies? Where are the dodgy waterproofs? Why can I only smell sunscreen? 

Of course there is only one place to start. The grandstand surrounding the first tee isn’t quite as big as the one in Paris in ’18 – around four-and-a-half thousand compared to the seven-strong number that housed the baying mob in France five years ago. 

But as the opening hole sweeps up the hill to the high point of the course which also incorporates the second and 16th tee boxes, it feels much more enclosed. The atmosphere here on Friday morning – yes, we start on Friday, folks – is going to be something else. It always is. If you have a sad little bucket list like me, it must be on there. 

For now, though, three days out from 4,492 flag-waving fans standing silently to allow the Ryder Cup Guardians do their thing, only a handful of people are in here, soaking it all in.  

There’s a bit of time until the practice groups come out, so it seems rude not to pop over to the merch tent see what Samuel Ryder Trophy-emblazoned swag they’re trying to shift.  

Oh look, just everything you can buy at American Golf but with the 2023 Ryder Cup logo on it and a 75% mark-up. Who would have thought? 

I leave empty handed to return back past the range, where there are some epic bantz being played out…  

On the first tee, meanwhile, the opening practice group of Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Sepp Straka are about to set off up the opener. And it’s good to see one tradition hasn’t died, as the crowd chants in unison with each players’ practice swing.  

I leave the stand and walk past vice-captain Nicolas Colsaerts, who is vaping, and head up the hill. MSGCC is incredibly hilly, which is almost unsettling given how close it is to Rome, which is so flat it makes Norfolk look like the Himalayas.  

I reach the high point of the course – a portion of land alongside the 13th hole which incorporates the second and 16th tees. That huge grandstand I was just in? I’m now looking down at it. I enjoy a spot of people watching as I desperately try to catch my breath. 

The problem is, there aren’t that many people about. I suppose when the tournament is still the best part of a week away and all there is to offer is a handful of meaningless practice groups, you aren’t going to get them in their droves. Why are we all here so early? It’s so early, Michael is writing about the Ryder Cup going to Saudi Arabia. Just move the tournament up a day or two lads!

I’m immediately knocked out of my daydream as I hear the familiar thud of balata on turf. Rory McIlroy – who else? – has just earned the biggest cheer of the day so far… 

Now we’ve started!  

But I need to head back, because it’s lunchtime. Oh, and some press conferences are starting soon. Mooching back past the hospitality area, the speakers blare out an unedited version of Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit, which is almost certainly the only time that song has been played at a golf tournament, and I glance around hoping that one of the blue shirts dotted all over the course is in charge of the music so I can request Green Day’s American Idiot. 

The press conference are, perhaps unsurprisingly, limp affairs. Patrick Cantlay reveals Marco Simone is the only course he’s played in Italy before later joking that “it’s definitely the best”. Xander Schauffele then comes out and says Cantlay is the USA team’s jokester – we know, X, he was just bantering us off the planet 15 minutes ago – before Jordan Spieth gets pissed off and can’t wait to leave. 

But there’s a bit of an elephant-in-the-room feel about how they talk about the golf course. Let’s just say it will be interesting to hear their thoughts once we’re done and dusted in Rome.

Then the Euros come out, one by one, tagging each other in, to answer questions as blandly as possible. That’s not a criticism, why would they say anything that would get them in any kind of bother? But it does also make you wonder of the point of this exercise altogether.

I said it on the first Ryder Cup commute episode of The bunkered Podcast, but the Ryder Cup needs to be played Thursday to Saturday. And now I’m saying it here. That’s how serious I am about it. 

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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