12/15/2015

Only three Italians have ever played for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup, Constantino Rocca and the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco.

The European Tour heads to Italy just once all season, the Italian Open in September (Keep in mind, the UAE and South Africa host multiple events). As it stands, Francesco Molinari is the closest Italian to qualifying for the 2016 Ryder Cup. He sits in 23rd in the European Rankings.

All of this to say Italy isn’t what you’d call a golfing nation.

Ryder Cup Europe hopes that changes in the next six years. Early Monday, it was announced that the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome will host the 2022 Ryder Cup.

It will be the third time the event has left the British Isles in history. Spain, Club de Golf Valderrama, hosted in 1997 while France welcomes the Americans and Europeans to Le Golf Nacional in 2018.

[bctt tweet=”All of this to say Italy isn’t what you’d call a golfing nation.”]

One could be skeptical of the Italian selection if only because the country doesn’t carry the same golf history as England and Scotland. Furthermore, almost any move now-a-days is a money move (And to an extent, it should be), but the off-the-wall choice hints at Rory McIlroy’s criticism all those years ago.

Never mind that McIlroy recanted, the Ryder Cup does sometimes feel like an exhibition. Given the team format and the continental Team Europe, it sort of always is. Fans will travel but the challenge will be on the native Italians to get in the spirit of the thing.

On the other hand, golf continues to grow globally. In the last ten years, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Belgians, Dutchmen, Germans and especially the Irish have all made their mark on both the PGA and European Tours.

The Ryder Cup is no longer a guaranteed proposition for the top players. Each team could go 20-25 guys deep. Six years is an eternity in golf. After all, Jordan Spieth was 16 six years ago and Anthony Kim was the hotshot young American. Italy could produce a star before 2022 and who knows, maybe the Ryder Cup will inspire one.

Golf, to put it lightly, has been adverse to change over its long and storied history. Much of what the sport does should be held sacred. But the joy of the game should also be spread as far as it can go.

Italy has hosted Olympics, Winter and Summer, the World Cup as well as a host of other major international events. The country will have no trouble putting on a show or challenging the world’s best players. The Presidents Cup in South Korea was a huge success. This could have a similar effect.

If golf fans were honest with themselves, they’d probably admit the Ryder Cup grows more obsolete every two years. Its not for lack of excitement, but rather more and more talented players are left out. Adam Scott, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Angel Cabrera and Brendan Grace will never get a chance to play.

Next summer’s Olympics will offer a glimpse at a true international competition, but it won’t be the same given the absurd format. A Roman Ryder Cup will do wonders in continuing the full international push.

As for the United States, the stakes could be extra high in Italy’s capital. Two more losses would stretch the European’s dominance through another decade.

There’s no better setting for an empire’s collapse than Rome.

[bctt tweet=”There’s no better setting for an empire’s collapse than Rome.”]