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Ryder Cup: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and rest of Luke Donald's Team Europe take scouting mission to Rome

Luke Donald's European team visited Marco Simone Golf Club on Monday ahead of the Ryder Cup later this month; all 12 of his line-up - including Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm - feature at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth from Thursday

Ryder Cup team Europe vice captain Francesco Molinari, center, returns with his team to a hotel in Rome, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, at the end of a practice session at the Marco Simone golf club where the 2023 Ryder Cup will be played starting next Sept. 29. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Image: Viktor Hovland and vice-captain Francesco Molinari were among those on Team Europe's pre-Ryder Cup trip to Rome on Monday

Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and the rest of Team Europe enjoyed a scouting trip to Marco Simone Golf Club on Monday ahead of the Ryder Cup later this month.

Two days on from nine of Zach Johnson's USA team heading to Rome to prepare for the biennial contest, live from September 29-October 1 on Sky Sports, Luke Donald took all 12 of his line-up for a practice session at this year's Ryder Cup venue.

McIlroy - sporting a backwards Ryder Cup cap - made the trip after a disappointing final day at the Horizon Irish Open, where he found the water four times on his way to finish tied-16th, with Shane Lowry making his first visit to the course after ending in a share for third at the K Club.

Tyrrell Hatton arrived following his missed cut in Ireland last week, with Rahm, Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick the other survivors from Europe's record-breaking loss in 2021 also enjoying the trip to Italy.

Ryder Cup rookies Nicolai Hojgaard and Robert MacIntyre got to return to the venue where they have enjoyed DS Automobiles Italian Open victories in recent seasons, with European veteran Justin Rose, Austria's Sepp Straka and rising star Ludvig Åberg completing the team visit.

Francesco Molinari - who won all five points in Europe's 2018 success - was among the vice-captains in attendance, with the team sitting down for official photos and enjoying on-course access at this year's layout.

Here's a closer look at how the team enjoyed their Rome experience...

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Donald: Team trip 'important step'

Donald will be looking to lead Europe to a seventh consecutive home victory over Team USA and avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in 30 years, with the Englishman delighted with the course and his team ahead of the 2023 edition.

"It [Marco Simone GC] is looking amazing," Donald said. "The green staff have done an amazing job. It has not been an easy summer with the hot weather they've had, but the course is impeccable. The rough is nice and thick and the course is looking great. I'm really happy with how they've done and how they presented it.

Ryder Cup team Europe captain Luke Donald, talks to reporters as he returns with his team to a hotel in Rome, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, at the end of a practice session at the Marco Simone golf club where the 2023 Ryder Cup will be played starting next Sept. 29. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Image: Luke Donald is hoping to extend Europe's winning home Ryder Cup record

"There's a lot of emotions going around and a lot of anticipation, energy and excitement. The guys that haven't played a Ryder Cup before have seen now how the week is going to be, so there's a lot of great energy there.

"It was great to get all the guys together. It was really important and it's the first time we've had a practice trip, so to get the guys in the same team room, out on the golf course and seeing the course was an important step."

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What's next?

All 12 of the team head to London for the BMW PGA Championship, with the Rolex Series event the last time the majority of Donald's side will tee it up ahead of the Ryder Cup.

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Europe's Ryder Cup stars are all in action at the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event of the DP World Tour calendar, with extended coverage live on Sky Sports Golf

Lowry returns as defending champion after last year's one-shot victory over Rahm and McIlroy, who holds a 2,350-point lead at the top of the DP World Tour's season-long standings as he looks to win the Race to Dubai for a fifth time and the second year running.

Max Homa and Justin Thomas are the only Team USA players featuring at the PGA Tour's season-opening Fortinet Championship, the start of the "FedExCup Fall", where captain Johnson and vice-captain Stewart Cink are in the field.

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MacIntyre is the only European player currently listed in the field for the Open de France next week, where there is no PGA Tour event scheduled, before the 44th Ryder Cup takes place in Rome later this month.

US provide clues to 'possible pairings'

US captain Johnson and his assistant Cink have provided some clues as to "possible pairings" the visitors could deploy in Italy following their own trip to Rome.

The duo explained that the "brutal" physical challenge of walking the course at Marco Simone Golf Club could lead to the full squad being used on both Friday and Saturday.

"We're starting to get into some possible pairings to see what's best for that golf course and what's best for our team," Johnson said.

Johnson took nine of his 12 players to Rome earlier in September, with only Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele unable to make the trip.

Regarding pairings, assistant captain Cink said: "I think the golf course is going to solve some of that problem because it's so hilly and the temperature could be pretty hot, too.

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"I think guys are going to be happy to probably rest. There's not going to be a lot of disappointment for not playing.

"It's probably the most demanding physically of any Cup course I've ever seen, that I've been a part of."

While all 12 of Donald's European team are playing in this week's BMW PGA Championship, Johnson is expecting an extended period of rest to benefit his side.

"That rest I think is actually probably better than actually competing off the Tour Championship a lot," Johnson added.

"Sounds like the European team might be playing a little bit more because of their schedule and the way it lays out, which is fine.

"Our guys will be rested. That was part of the joy and the purpose of our practice round trip is to let those guys see the course so that way, when we get there that week, they don't have to force it and push themselves to get their feet on the grounds that much because they already know kind of what to expect so they can kind of prepare accordingly."

Watch the BMW PGA Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday with Featured Groups from 8.30am ahead of full coverage from midday on Sky Sports Golf.

Live coverage from the opening day of the Ryder Cup begins on Friday September 29 from 6am on Sky Sports Golf, while live programming begins on Monday September 25. Stream the PGA Tour, DP Tour, Ryder Cup and more with NOW.

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