It’s often said that the Ryder Cup is golf at its most gladiatorial, and in 2022 the metaphor will never seem more apt.
Last week, the Organizing Committee for the 2022 Ryder Cup, hosted by Rome, welcomed journalists from across Europe to the Challenge Tour’s Montecchia Open where they introduced the distinct flavor Italy will bring to the event.
The standout feature? Simplicity itself - the backdrop.
Rome will be no passive host. Instead it will be utilized as the Eternal City should be.
The opening ceremony? It will take place in the Collosseum.
The closing ceremony? Hosted in front of a medieval castle.
The host course, Marco Simone Golf & County Club? It not only overlooks Rome; it has a bird’s eye view of the Vatican City and the dome of St Peter’s.
It’s a stunning proposal, full of pomp, drama and epic settings.
Sardonically ask the Italians what else they will bring to the Ryder Cup table and there is a twinkle in the eye. “La dolce vita,” they smile. The beautiful life.
If all this sounds a little laid-back and preposterously beautiful, then it is a fair reflection: As it stands there is a certain nonchalance about the task ahead of them, but there is also excitement.
A SportsDNA report (Repucom) in 2013 indicated that Italy has more golfers than Germany, France or Spain, a fact that would surprise most, and yet the Italian Golf Federation recognizes that despite those numbers the population continues to deem golf an elite sport.
One Italian journalist told Golf News Net: “If we cannot make the mainstream following the Ryder Cup, we never will.”
It’s clear that this is an opportunity like no other and the first major step towards taking the sport to the masses regards the Italian Open, which will undergo a transformation. Last year the prize fund was €1.5 million, this year it has been doubled, and from 2017 it will be worth €7 million.
To put that into context, the BMW PGA Championship, commonly believed to be the European Tour’s flagship event, currently has a €5 million prize fund, whilst the end-of-season DP World Tour Championship sees the field fight over €8 million.
It is a staggering jump for the 2022 host’s home event, and they naturally hope, and expect, it will draw world-class fields. It has also to be admitted that it drew a few looks of incredulity from Italian golf observers excited by the prospect, but curious as to where the extra funds will come from.
“It is a message to the population of Italy that golf in our country is not only important to us but it is globally important,” said Alessandro Rogato, president of the Organizing Committee. “If they understand that they will come to appreciate what an opportunity the Ryder Cup is for all Italian sport.”
It is an opportunity, too, for the players. Golf will have seen nothing like the opening ceremony in the Collosseum - the perfect venue to tee off golf’s greatest head-to-head battle.