The European Ryder Cup Team will be fighting to get their hands back on the trophy when they clash with their United States counterparts in Paris from September 28. Who will make the cut in Thomas Bjorn’s 12-man team?
Europe suffered the first defeat since 2008—and only the second since 1999—when it comprehensively lost 17-11 to the United States at Hazeltine two years ago. That was a young European side featuring six rookies, and the inexperience took its toll in the end. Will it be a different and more experienced line-up in 2018?
There will be eight automatic qualifiers—four from the Race to Dubai standings and four from the Ryder Cup points list as well as four wild card picks from Bjorn, an increase from three in previous years. How could the European side look in Paris?
Two of the first names on the European team will be former world number one Rory McIlroy and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia. They have both been stalwarts of the side down the years. Both should qualify automatically given their talents, but would undoubtedly be Captain’s picks if needed. The ‘guarantees’ should also include Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, who have both contributed to the recent successes of the European Team.
There are three rookies who look set for Ryder Cup debuts in 2018. Jon Rahm has shot into the top five players in the world and should join fellow Spaniard Garcia in the final 12, while a pair of Englishman are on course to make the cut following winning exploits on the European Tour with Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton expected to be part of Bjorn’s party.
With the two points list systems for the European Team selection, there are plenty of variables to take into consideration for those possibly making the line-up. Alex Noren, who would be a rookie, and Rafa Cabrera Bello, the highest points scorer two years ago despite being a rookie, certainly come into the mix as they battle for points on the PGA and European Tours to make the team.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood and Thomas Pieters, all rookies in the 2016 defeat—the latter as a wildcard—could all make their second Ryder Cup appearance. Shane Lowry will hope to follow in their footsteps by making his debut in the tournament this year with the Irishman’s stature growing in the game.
Paul Casey has not played in the event since 2008. He recently took the decision to return to the European Tour full time in order to aid his chances of qualification. Fellow Englishman Ross Fisher has not featured on the European Team since 2010 but is also in the running to be one of the 12 names on the final sheet along with Francesco Molinari, who last played in 2012.
Possible wild cards
Bjorn will want to use his picks to bolster the level of experience within his team, given the fact that team captain Darren Clarke’s side was half filled with rookies when Europe lost heavily two years ago. Ian Poulter—Mr Ryder Cup—will also be in the frame for selection should he not secure an automatic qualifying spot. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, wild cards two years ago, may need the same wild card status again in order to make the team.
Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell have also all played in winning European Teams and will undoubtedly be in Bjorn’s mind when it comes to the conundrum of piecing together his final line-up for the European Ryder Cup Team.
Predictions for the European Ryder Cup Team
Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrell Hatton
Ross Fisher, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Alex Noren, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Chris Wood, Paul Casey, Francesco Molinari and Thomas Pieters
Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell