Golf-Europe captain Donald relishing return of Ryder Cup roar

Golf - The 2023 Ryder Cup - Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy - September 25, 2023 Team Europe captain Luke Donald during a press conference as the Ryder Cup trophy is seen REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

ROME (Reuters) - Europe suffered their worst Ryder Cup defeat two years ago at a hostile Whistling Straits but captain Luke Donald believes the energy of the home crowd in Rome can be a decisive factor in reclaiming the trophy this week.

Former world number one Donald was one of Padraig Harrington's vice captains in 2021 as the United States romped to a 19-9 victory in a match sadly lacking European fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's edition will feel and sound much more like it for Donald's dozen with thousands of fans from across the continent descending on Rome's Marco Simone course.

Plenty of Americans will make the trip too, but home advantage will definitely favour Europe as they look to continue their domination on home soil.

"In the end we didn't perform at the level we needed to perform at," England's Donald said of the one-sided contest two years ago as he addressed the media on Monday.

"The Americans were strong and they played how they know they can play. Certainly, being at home, we know that's an advantage. We know it's an advantage when you're in the U.S.

"Having that support, that crowd behind you, it picks up your energy as a player and you feed off it. Absolutely we are looking forward to having a lot more support this time around because it was lacking a lot because of COVID two years ago."

United States captain Zach Johnson is attempting to mastermind a first U.S. victory on European soil since a 15-13 victory at The Belfry 30 years ago.

Since then Europe have enjoyed some notable victories in the U.S. including a rout at Oakland Hills in 2004 and the so-called Miracle of Medinah in 2012, but for whatever reason, the Americans have struggled to turn their rankings superiority into enough points to break their away jinx.

"I mean, it's difficult. It's hard to win outside of your comfort zone. It's hard to win against a team that's always been very formidable. It's really just that simple," Johnson, who featured on three American sides to lose in Europe, said.

"But at the same time I can speak confidently, and talking to my team, these guys are ready and want to embrace that difficulty and want to just look at this as a great opportunity."

While Europe have traditionally become more than the sum of parts on home turf, this year's U.S. team looks formidable with three of this year's major winners available to Johnson in the form of Brooks Koepka, Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman.

Their line-up also includes former major champions Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas and current world number one Scottie Scheffler.

"The U.S. are very strong. We know that. We are coming off our worst defeat ever in a Ryder Cup," Donald said.

"The U.S. players are strong, high up in the world rankings and they have some great partnerships and have had a lot of success. We have our work cut out but as I said, you have to have belief in your team that you're going to get them into a place where they are going to be successful."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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