Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic pretends to drive off with a tennis racket on the 1st tee in the All-Star match played ahead of the 44th Ryder Cup at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome on September 27, 2023. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
CNN  — 

A 24-time tennis grand slam champion driving the green at the flagship event in men’s golf, toasting it with a footballer’s signature celebration and watched on by a Formula One driver – the 2023 Ryder Cup celebrity All-Star match was a dizzying medley of sporting excellence.

Fresh off a historic triumph at the US Open earlier this month, Novak Djokovic ended September with another win, helping Colin Montgomerie’s team to a 7-4 victory over Corey Pavin’s side at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome on Wednesday.

Paired with England’s Golf for the Disabled (G4D) Tour world No. 1 Kipp Popert against Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and recent G4D winner Tomasso Perrino, it saw Djokovic swap racket for club – eventually.

The Serbian stepped up to the first tee wielding his customary tool of choice in a golfer’s stance, but quickly exchanged it for a driver before sending a confident first shot down the fairway. Sainz could not match the feat, the Spaniard wincing as his opening effort skewed towards the rough.

That trend followed over the contest’s course, the highlight coming at the par four 16th when Djokovic boomed a laser-like drive 260 yards from tee to green. Squinting to track his shot, the tennis star spread his arms to the crowd before turning them downwards to perform Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark ‘Siu’ goal celebration.

“The crowd made me do it,” Djokovic said. “I’m really happy they did because I wanted to go safe.”

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 27: Tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts as spectators cheer his tee shot on the 16th hole during the All-Star Match at the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 27, 2023 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

After sailing to a 3-1 victory, Djokovic was full of praise for Poppert, who clinched his third consecutive G4D victory – and eighth overall – at the BMW PGA Championship earlier this month.

“It was all about my partner today, he delivered his A-game,” Djokovic said.

“It was so much fun walking around and exchanging some great experiences that we have in our respective sports. I just admire him so much and people that are playing disabled golf the way they do, it’s incredible. I was telling him about the wheelchair tennis players that I really have been admiring over the years. It’s just inspiring.

“As for the level of my golf, I have to say I’m pleased because I haven’t been playing much but played some really good holes today.”

Poppert returned the praise, reflecting on an “incredible” day.

“I was telling Novak, I’ve had a lot of operations in my life, and as a kid, I’d visualize what it was like to be in scenarios like this and what it would feel like.

“I actually can’t believe how comfortable I was and having one of the greatest sportsmen ever just be an absolute gentleman and make this experience wonderful was great fun and I really enjoyed it.”

Rome , Italy - 27 September 2023; Formula One driver Carlos Sainz watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the All-Star Match before the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Bale impresses again

Another matchup saw Scotland’s Montgomerie square off against Pavin in a repeat of their duel as non-playing captains at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales, when Europe won 14.5 - 13.5. Fittingly then, a Welsh sporting icon joined the fray.

Five-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale made no secret of his love for golf during a glittering playing career at Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid and caught the eye with his display at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 27: Former footballer, Gareth Bale plays his third shot on the first hole during the All-Star Match at the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 27, 2023 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Even a self-confessed back injury did not stop Bale, who plays off a two handicap, as he and his partner ran out 2-1 victors against Ukrainian football legend Andriy Shevchenko and Pavin.

With Team Monty’s Garret Hilbert – from YouTube content creator group Dude Perfect – and Italian Olympic surfer Leonardo Fioravanti drawing 2-2 with Hollywood actor Kathryn Newton and Super Bowl-winning wide receiver Victor Cruz in the final matchup, the overall result saw Montgomerie notch another win over his American counterpart.

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 27: Kipp Poppert, Garrett Hilbert, Novak Djokovic, Gareth Bale, Leonardo Fioravanti, and Colin Montgomerie celebrate with the trophy following victory during the All-Star Match at the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on September 27, 2023 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“Playing in the Ryder Cup was a great part of my life, never mind my career,” said Montgomerie, who never lost a singles match in eight appearances at the tournament.

“Fantastic golf course, real risk and reward … we look forward to the rest of the week for the lads.”