Luke Donald Completes His Ryder Cup Team With Eye Catching Picks
LUDVIG ABERG, a man who has played just nine tournaments as a professional, was the eye-catching choice when Luke Donald named his Ryder Cup team to face the USA at Marco Simone Golf Club at the end of the month.
He already knew the names of the six automatic qualifiers - Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Robert MacIntyre. MacIntyre was the only rookie, while Fitzpatrick, who nearly won the European Masters, will be playing in his third match and is still looking for his first point.
Donald had six wild cards, and an embarrassment of riches to choose from. And the question was: who would he leave out?
Donald said: “I have tried to enjoy this journey but it always comes down to these last few events and there are so many guys who have played really well and to see how much they want to be part of the team. It is a huge duty to pick these six players. Some are going to be disappointed but I am happy with the team I have."
The wild cards went to Tommy Fleetwood, who will be playing in his third Ryder Cup, Sepp Straka, making his debut, Justin Rose, making his sixth appearance, Shane Lowry, making his second appearance, Nicolai Hojgaard, making his debut, and Aberg, making his debut.
Fleetwood has enjoyed a fine season on the PGA Tour, making it to the Tour Championship and coming so close to finally winning in North America when he lost in a playoff at the Canadian Open.
Rose has returned to something like his best form after a couple of years in the doldrums. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and played consistently well all year. There is no doubt that Donald wanted his experience in the team.
Straka, a proven winner on the PGA Tour, becomes the second Austrian to make the side, and Lowry has been there or thereabouts all year.
The big surprise for many will be the selection of Aberg, who only turned pro in June and has played in just nine tournaments, but he has twice finished joint fifth and, in front of Donald, he won the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.
Fleetwood said: “It feels very cool to be picked again. It is a life-long goal and I have been lucky enough to have played in two. I wanted to be in this side to have the chance to win back the trophy. The defeat at Whistling Straits lit a fire in us to win it back. We all knew we wanted to do a better job and so many of us have shown some really good form. Now we have to go to Rome and make it happen.”
Donald described Fleetwood as a ball-striking machine with a proven pedigree.
John Deere Classic winner Straka said: “This was a goal but it always seemed so far away. Thankfully, I showed some form in the summer and here I am. I have found a consistency in ball striking, which has given me more chances to win on Sundays and compete at majors.”
Donald singled out Straka, who finished second at The Open, for committing himself to playing in the Hero Cup earlier in the year.
Rose, who played key roles at Medinah and Le Golf National, said: “This has been a huge motivation for me. It hurt to miss out on the last one. The great experiences I have had in Ryder Cups have been among my career highlights, and I am delighted to be a part of the team. At the Ryder Cup you are doing it for something that is bigger than you. Winning as a team is among the best fun moments you can have.”
Lowry said: “I am proud and grateful to be chosen. The last one hurt and I am excited for a home Ryder Cup. We don’t play team golf often and I just love team sport. I loved being part of the team at Whistling Straits and making it to Rome has been one of my goals all year."
Donald said: “Shane is a big-time player. He has won The Open and WGC events and you know he brings passion.”
Hojgaard will no doubt be disappointed not to be making his debut alongside twin brother Rasmus, but he has been in sensational form. He said: “It feels just amazing. It is hard to put into words. The call from Luke made my night and to be on a team with guys I have looked up to all my life is something special. I am nervous right now thinking about my first shot but I am so excited.”
Aberg said: “There’s been a lot going on these past few months. If you had a told me a couple of months ago I would be in these conversations then I wouldn’t have believed you."
Donald said: “We knew what Ludvig was doing on the college circuit and I played with him in Detroit and was blown away. I challenged him to play in Europe and he finished fifth at the Czech Masters and then won."
This was always going to be a very different looking team, without the likes of Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, men with a wealth of experience but who are now plying their trade on the LIV Golf Tour. They have all cancelled their DP World Tour memberships so could not be considered for selection.
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