Ahead of this week’s Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson and U.S. Vice Captain Stewart Cink spoke to the media extensively on Tuesday.
The two captains, who are also very close friends, discussed their recent scouting trip to Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. In doing so, the pair made an astonishing claim about the host venue.
“It’s probably the most physically demanding of any Cup course I’ve ever seen that I’ve been a part of,” Cink said.
“No question,” Johnson added. “In my time, for sure.”
Marco Simone Golf Club sits 10 miles from the city center of Rome and is known for its undulating hills and challenging layout.
The difficult elevation changes will likely wear out players, especially since so much golf is played in so little time at the Ryder Cup.
But as Johnson and Cink noted, a captain’s most challenging task during the competition is deciding when to rest players. Marco Simone will make that job easier because some players may opt to sit out a session on Friday or Saturday to rejuvenate.
“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, that I think guys are going to be happy to probably rest,” Cink said. “There’s not going to be a lot of disappointment for not playing.”
“It’s a brutal walk,” Johnson added. “Then, like you say, compounding that with heat.”
This week, temperatures in Rome exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Whether temperatures get that high for the Ryder Cup remains to be seen, but the heat in Rome could draw comparisons to the sweltering heat in Atlanta for the Tour Championship.
That would also make things easier when deciding who to rest.
Nevertheless, Cink and Johnson have combined to play in 10 Ryder Cups, including challenging courses such as The Belfry, Oakland Hills, and Celtic Manor.
Marco Simone, which has hosted the DS Automobiles Italian Open for the past three years on the DP World Tour, appears to take the cake as the most difficult Ryder Cup venue.
Throw in the U.S. Open-like rough, which is how Shane Lowry described the rough, and Marco Simone may prove to be one of the harshest Ryder Cups to date.