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The Ryder Cup: A Closer Look at the European Team

This week, Europe and the United States meet to renew their Ryder Cup rivalry at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Respective captains Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker have now finalized their teams, the European team with nine automatic qualifiers and three captains picks. In this article, we take a closer look at the 12 European players trusted to take the prestigious Ryder Cup back across the Atlantic following the most incredible event in all of sport.

Bernd Wiesberger
World Ranking: 63
Ryder Cup appearances: Rookie

Throughout the golfing world, there was a feeling that Padraig Harrington would have loved Shane Lowry to grab the final automatic qualifying spot for team Europe that would have allowed him to select Justin Rose as a captain’s pick, but Bernd Wiesberger had a very different idea. The world number 63 finished the season very strongly to become the first Austrian to make Ryder Cup selection. Wiesberger missed the cut at both the U.S Open and the PGA Championship this year and has never posted a top-ten finish in any of his 28 major appearances. His form on the European Tour, however, is good, he has four wins on tour since 2019, and automatic Ryder Cup selection never happens by accident. Expect Wiesberger to play once, possibly twice before the singles.

Matt Fitzpatrick
World Ranking: 27
Ryder Cup appearances: 1

Fitzpatrick had a woeful Ryder Cup experience five years ago at Hazeltine. Having been left out of the first three sessions by Daren Clarke, he got embarrassed by Zach Johnson in the singles. In saying that, Fitzpatrick thrives on demanding and firm courses, so he has a chance of being an unsung European hero this week.

Shane Lowry
World ranking: 42
Ryder Cup appearances: Rookie

Despite winning the 2019 Open Championship, Lowry narrowly missed out on automatic Ryder Cup selection; thankfully, his good friend Padraig handed him a captain’s pick. In all fairness, it’s a lot more than just a handout to a pal; Lowy deserves his spot after a very consistent 2021, making the cut in his last 16 tournaments. Lowry has one of the best short games in the world of golf in his arsenal, which is always handy in the foursomes and is likely to play in an all-Irish pair with his close friend Rory McIlroy.

Lee Westwood
World ranking:35
Ryder Cup appearances: 10

Westwood played in ten consecutive Ryder Cups from 1997-2016 but moved into an assistant captain role last time around but has since more than found his form again. He is the most experienced European team player and has an outstanding 17-11-6 record in team sessions. Many feel that approaching 50, this could be Westwoods Ryder Cup swansong, but then again, we all thought that in 2016.

Tommy Fleetwood
World ranking:37
Ryder Cup appearances: 1

Fleetwood was one half of the infamous Moliwood partnership in 2016, where he and Francesco Molinari took down Tiger Woods three times, then Spieth and Thomas once. 2021 has not been overly kind to Fleetwood, with only two top-ten finishes in 18 starts and missing the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Fleetwood has several potential partners with Molinari out of the picture at Whistling Straits.

Paul Casey
World Ranking: 24
Ryder Cup appearances: 4

Casey needed a captain’s pick in 2018 to play in his first Ryder Cup in ten years, but there was no such stress this time around for the Englishman. A major championship still eludes the 44-year-old, but he keeps edging closer to one, and a very consistent year has seen him finish T-5 at the Players, T-4 at the PGA Championship, T-7 at the U.S. Open, and T-4 at the Olympics. Casey is well rested and fresh for the Ryder Cup after missing out on East Lake.

Ian Poulter
World Ranking: 50
Ryder Cup appearances: 6

There is no golfer on earth more synonymous with the Ryder Cup than Englishman Ian Poulter. His 5-0-1 singles record speaks for itself. Poulter has a habit of making crucial Ryder Cup putt after crucial Ryder Cup putt, and nobody feeds off the crowds better than Mr Ryder Cup himself. He hasn’t won a golf tournament since 2018, but Poulter morphs into a different player when wearing yellow and blue.

Sergio Garcia
World Ranking: 43
Ryder Cup appearances: 9

Garcia has an outstanding Ryder Cup record with an astonishing 18-8-6 record in team sessions. In Paris, last time around, Garcia surpassed Nick Faldo to become the all-time leader in Ryder Cup points officially but needed a captain’s pick to make the team for Whistling Straits. Garcia comes into the tournament full of confidence and excellent form, making the Tour Championships and a solid showing at Caves Valley. Garcia doesn’t have a great record at Whistling Straits, having missed the cut there in 2004 and 2010 and finishing T-54 there at the 2015 PGA Championship, but then again, this is the Ryder Cup, and this is Segio’s ultimate comfort zone.

Viktor Hovland
World Ranking: 14
Ryder Cup appearances: Rookie

The Norwegian was still ten months away from turning pro the last time the Ryder Cup was played, but since then, he has won twice on the PGA Tour and is knocking loudly on the door of the world’s top ten. He isn’t the longest guy out there on tour, far from it, but his consistent ball striking is made for 72-hole stroke-play events. As we all know, Match-play is an entirely different story, but expect to see him out there more often than not at Whistling Straits as he is a great candidate to bring home points for team Europe.

Rory McIlroy
World Ranking: 15
Ryder Cup appearances: 5

This is the first of Mcllroys six consecutive Ryder Cup appearances where he hasn’t joined up with the team as either Europe’s best or second-best player but still expect him to continue his streak of playing in all five sessions. Whistling Straits is a good course for Rory, and he is undoubtedly a natural-born big-stage player. He led the tour for birdies last year, which is an essential skill to have in a match-play setting. McIlroy has been on the winning team in four of his five previous Ryder Cups, and although his personal record in the tournament isn’t great, it is good. Expect to see McIlroy paired with Lowry and Hovland over the two days of the pairings before being out either very early or very late for the singles on Sunday.

Jon Rahm
World Ranking: 1
Ryder Cup appearances: 1

Jon Rahm was not the PGA Tour player of the year, but he is the undisputed best player in the world. Cantley scooped the PGA Tour player of the year, but Rahm fared better than him in all of the six majors played in the ‘super’ season of 2020-2021, and he finished well ahead of all other golfers in the statistical conversations. Out of all 24 players selected for the Ryder Cup, Rahm was the only one who chose to play in Napa and ultimately missed the cut, although he was dealing with a stomach virus, so we won’t read too much into it. Unlike many players on tour Rahm always chooses to play the week before majors but has never before played at Whistling Straits. It is likely that, like McIlroy, Rahm will play all five sessions, and last time around in Paris, he took great pride in beating Tiger in the singles, a win that reduced him to tears.