Will These Be The Ryder Cup Teams in September
AND so another Open Championship has come to an end and now we all start to look ahead to the Ryder Cup as Europe aim to banish memories of the thrashing they received at the hands of the USA at Whistling Straits.
Luke Donald will lead Europe at Marco Simone Golf Club on the outskirts of Rome and his team is now shaping up. So let’s have a look at the 12 men who are likely to be carrying Europe’s hopes.
Several players are now locked in. Six players will qualify automatically from the world and European points lists, leaving Donald with six captain’s picks.
Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Robert MacIntrye currently occupy the six automatic places and I don’t see that changing. McIlroy had a dreadful time at Whistling Straits two years ago so you can be certain that he will be desperate to lead from the front this time around.
Matt Fitzpatrick is outside the automatic places but is a certainty to get a pick, as is former Open champion Shane Lowry.
So that takes care of eight places. Who is going to claim the final four spots?
Many will make a case for Austria’s Sepp Straka, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. The problem with Straka is that when he is good he is well-nigh unbeatable but when he is bad he is truly awful. And at the moment he is good - his performance at The Open will have done wonders for his confidence.
He will be getting a call from Donald.
Victor Perez is a beautiful golfer who possesses a wonderful touch on and around the greens. He is enjoying another fine season on the DP World Tour and I believe he will be in the team.
Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard are bidding to become the first twins to play in the Ryder Cup. Nicolai has enjoyed some success on the PGA Tour and Rasmus won in Denmark recently. My hunch is that both young men will be picked.
Adrian Meronk is the first Polish golfer to win on the DP World Tour. He is a hugely impressive individual and I believe he will be in the team.
Justin Rose lost his way but has returned to his very best form in 2023, winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and getting himself into contention on a regular basis. But his play at The Open was dreadful and he may well have played himself out of the team.
You could make a case for Seamus Power, Thorbjorn Olesen, Alex Noren, Aaron Rai and Yannik Paul. My personal choice would be Power, who knows what it takes to beat Americans but I believe he is going to miss out.
Donald would love to have an Italian in his team but Guido Migliozzi just hasn’t played well enough or consistently enough to be considered.
Projected European Team
So here is my European team:
- Rasmus Hojgaard
- Nicolai Hojgaard
And that would mean Donald would be heading to Italy with six rookies in his team - Perez, the Hojgaard twins, Straka, MacIntyre and Meronk. None of them will let Europe down and just imagine the Hojgaards playing together.
And what of the team they will face?
Zach Johnson said he wouldn’t have any LIV golfers in his team but the form of Brooks Koepka and the proposed peace deal have changed all of that.
Like Donald, Johnson will have six picks.
The top six in the standings are Scottie Scheffler, US Open champion Wyndham Clark, Open champion Brian Harman, Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Let’s be clear - there is absolutely no chance that Johnson will exclude Koepka.
Harman was in 20th place before winning The Open at Royal Liverpool. If he can reproduce anything like that form in Rome he is going to be a formidable member of the US team.
So who are the other six going to be?
Harman’s victory pushed Max Homa into seventh place but Homa played well at Hoylake, is a proven winner and an absolute certainty to get a pick.
You have to believe that Jordan Spieth, Cameron Young and Sam Burns will definitely get the nod. Rickie Fowler’s return to form means his selection is also a no-brainer.
That leaves one place up for grabs. Keegan Bradley is riding high in the standings but I believe he is going to miss out.
If we are going purely on form the final pick must go to Talor Gooch, who has enjoyed a terrific season on LIV Golf. And picking him would go a long way towards healing some rifts. There is also a case to me made for Patrick Reed, aka Captain America. He is another who has defected to LIV but he simply adores representing his country.
Or what about Dustin Johnson? Tony Finau? Justin Thomas? Johnson has had a mediocre season and Thomas is currently a shadow of the golfer who won two majors. And then there is Collin Morikawa, another two-time major champion. Like Thomas, he has lost his way this season and is highly unlikely to make the team. Like Thomas, he missed the cut at The Open and his stock is falling. But Finau continues to grind out top-10 finishes for fun.
If I were a betting man, my money would be on Johnson opting for Finau but all logic dictates that it should be Gooch.
Projected American Team
So the American team may look like this:
That would see Johnson going into the match with five rookies.
And I have to say that I like Europe’s chances of returning to winning ways.
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