Highlight of Ryder Cup Day 1 pressers? An 85-word question involving Visigoths

Zach Johnson, Luke Donald

Zach Johnson, left, and Luke Donald on Monday at Marco Simone.

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Editor’s note: The Ryder Cup, after last being played two years ago, is now just four days away. But that’s also 96 hours. And 5,760 minutes. The point being, the biennial matches are as close as a par-3 — but yet feel as far away as a brutally long par-5. The second hand can seem stuck until Friday. 

And then there are the press conferences. They, too, can mostly drag. After all, there are only so many ways to slice a golf ball, double-pun intended.

But there are tasty morsels. 

So, over the next four days, as a means to get us to the moment when balls are in the air, we’ll offer a highlight or two. They might be technical. They might be insightful. They might be emotional. They might be technically insightful, emotionally said. 

They might also be light. Like Monday’s. 

Day one at Marco Simone was arrival day, and there was just one presser, with two participants: U.S. captain Zach Johnson and European captain Luke Donald. Over about 50 minutes, questions were dutifully asked about the Americans’ 30-year drought in Europe. And the Solheim Cup. And Sam Burns’ hair. 

There was also a question about Tiger Woods’ potential involvement at the Ryder Cup, or lack thereof. “When it comes to the week of the tournament, if you’re not in on it and inside the team room, inside the ropes, shoulder-to-shoulder with these guys, it’s not fair to ask him questions,” Johnson said. “It’s probably — he can give us insights, don’t get me wrong. At the same time, I don’t know if that’s proper and I think he would understand completely.”

And there was a question about a comment from analyst and longtime caddie John Wood, who suggested last week that the Europeans have had an advantage in the past because of their putting prep. Both Donald and Johnson said they hadn’t heard that before. “They are all world-class individuals that know how to get the best out of their games in the moments when they need it most,” Donald said. “You know, whether that’s a Ryder Cup or a major or Players Championship or BMW PGA Championship, you know, these are the big events that they want to elevate their games to, and I wouldn’t have thought that their practice really changed much to be honest with you.”

But this, in at least one observer’s eyes, was the day one highlight. It was the last question of the session. It was asked by author and Golf Digest contributor Shane Ryan. It had hints of an online meme (which the PGA Tour also recently used). 

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Here is the complete exchange, with some notes. 

“All right, so because we’re in Rome, obviously this is the site of a famous historical empire that never lost at home until some serious internal divisions weakened them [here, Donald laughed] and then the barbarians were at the gates and they took over. [here, Donald shrugged his shoulders, then he and Johnson looked at each other.] And so this may be a jet-lag question [here, Johnson looked at his watch] — I desperately need sleep — but Luke, do you ever worry that you’re something like the last Roman emperor? [Here, Donald laughed.] And Zach, do you ever think of yourself as a Visigoth dressed in bear furs ready to attack?”

Said Donald: “Well, history is always important. We know that, and hopefully the beginning of the history of the Roman Empire will be kind to European golf this week.”

Here, there was a pause. 

Said Johnson: “Wow.”

Said Donald: “Keep my answer short.”

Said Johnson: “I do love history and I do appreciate certainly what this country is about, and specifically this city. I mean, Luke and I had the pleasure, I would even say distinct honor of walking the streets of Rome a year ago and actually hitting a golf ball by the Colosseum and the ruins and whatnot. I don’t take that for granted, whether you’re talking empires, biblical importance, whatever it may be, this history, I mean, the history of Rome, I mean, it’s the eternal city.

“All that being said, this is golf. I mean, this is sport. I’m going to keep it pretty simple. That’s the way I operate. I’m going to let whatever drama you’re trying to get into, I’m going to let that happen inside the ropes with our golf balls. 


Four more days to go. 

Editor’s note: To watch the complete press conference, please watch below. The Roman Empire question starts at the 44.45 mark. 

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.