The 2016 Ryder Cup was a thrilling return to victory for team U.S.A. In front of a pro-United States crowd at Hazeltine National Golf Club—located just outside of Minneapolis—the golfers draped in red, white and blue defeated the European team with a score of 17-11.
After starting the 2016 tournament with a dominating early round, team USA gave back most of their lead on Friday to a European group led by Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters. But on Saturday, with terrific play from the pairing of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, the United States widened their advantage and claimed a three-point lead. With the traditional 12 singles matches slated for Sunday, all the U.S. needed was to claim five points in order to win their first outright Ryder Cup title since 2008. It wasn’t easy. Early wins by Europe’s Henrik Stenson and Pieters gave the Europeans momentum heading into the final six matches. But the United States pushed away Europe’s late charge and took control with decisive victories by Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka to clinch the 2016 title.
Yet, as recent as the thrilling victory at Hazeltine feels to most golf watchers, qualifying for the 2018 Ryder Cup has already begun in earnest. Since the 2016 tournament was held in the States, tradition stipulates the following Ryder Cup be held in Europe. So, for the first time, the competition will be held in France at the historic Albatros Course of the Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb of Paris. The par-71 course will play over 7,300 yards and is a familiar one to those with European Tour cards—the Open de France is routinely played there each year.
Captains for the squads have already been announced. The USA Team will be led by longtime PGA golfer Jim Furyk while the Euro Squad will be captained by Thomas Bjorn.
Teams will continue to be created primarily through a point system that rewards wins and top finishes on both the PGA and European Tours. But in what has become a staple after the conclusion of a Ryder Cup, both captains have altered the way each team will be chosen.
For Bjorn, the 2018 European Team will move from three to four captain’s choices to fill out their roster. In addition to this, Bjorn has made playing in Europe a priority—a golfer must continue to hold a European Tour card and compete for Ryder Cup points in the newly created Rolex Series. The Series, which rivals the FedEx Cup on the PGA TOUR, will consist of eight tournaments held around the globe. Players attempting to earn a spot on team Europe will be encouraged to play these Rolex events as points from the Series will greatly affect their final point total.
The U.S. Squad will also be made up of four choices from Captain Furyk to complete the team, but there are subtle changes in how points will be accumulated. Starting with the 2018 major championships, players trying to make the U.S.A. team will be greatly rewarded by winning the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. Ryder Cup points for winning those tournaments will be doubled, therefore making an enormous impact on the golfer’s chances to make the team.
It is hard to believe that the core of both rosters will change dramatically from 2016 to the 2018 tournament. Barring major injury, Rory McIlroy should once again lead team Europe. For avid Ryder Cup followers, anticipation for the 2018 tournament will swirl around the controversies that surrounded McIlroy’s 2016 experience. In front of the hostile U.S. crowd, Rory was taunted, serenaded with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in honor of his ex-fiance Caroline Wozniacki and went so far as to have one raucous gallery member ejected. McIlroy won’t experience the same harassment in front of the French crowd but that could add motivation to Rory’s desire in bringing the cup back to Europe.
Team U.S.A. will, most likely, bring the dynamic duo of Spieth and Johnson back to Le Golf National but by the time the late September 2018 tourney comes around, one has to wonder if Koepka will have inserted himself into the conversation as the best player in America. Regardless, there has to be the belief that team U.S.A. will have their nerves tested by a European crowd looking for revenge after the disappointing 2016 Ryder Cup.