Ryder Cup Player Watch: Team Europe

The 42nd edition of the Ryder Cup  tees off at Le Golf National in France on Thursday and we take a look at Team Europe ahead of their title quest.

Captain Thomas Bjorn will lead the European contingent, with veterans Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and fellow Dane Robert Karlsson as vice-captains.

The points qualifying system has seen no less than five rookies make the cut, leading Bjorn to pick an experienced quartet for his Captain’s Picks.

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Francesco Molinari
Ryder Cup matches: 6
Winning percentage: 16%

The Italian has been bubbling under for a number of years now, but 2018 has finally proved a breakthrough season. Molinari has notched up three big wins, with the biggest and brightest feather being his Open Championship victory.

Molinari has featured in the past two Ryder Cups but is yet win a point for Team Europe. Now that the 35-year-old has his best two years on the course under his belt, he will be eager to change that this time around.

Justin Rose
Ryder Cup matches:19
Winning percentage: 63%

The world number two will be beaming with confidence after picking up golf’s most lucrative prize – the $10 million FedEx Cup – on Sunday at the East Lake boiler room. What’s more is that he held off a few charging Americans, namely Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, to get the win. Rose will be hoping to emulate that at Le Golf National.

Aside from a whirlwind weekend, Rose has proved to be one of the most consistent performers this season, with no less than eight top tens placings in his last ten starts.

Tyrrell Hatton
Ryder Cup matches: Rookie
Winning percentage: n/a

Hatton is the highest ranked rookie for Team Europe and made his move late last year. The Englishman won the Alfred Dunhill Links and the Italian Open on consecutive weekends last October.

While winless in 2018, Hatton has been consistent on the big stage, making the cut at each of the majors and earning two top ten finishes in the process.

 

Tommy Fleetwood
Ryder Cup matches: Rookie
Winning percentage: n/a

Fleetwood has been a very busy man in 2018. The Southport native has played in no less than 23 events already, only twice missing the cut.

After successfully defending his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship crown to start the year, Fleetwood again turned heads at the US Open. His superb closing round of 63 at Shinnecock Hills saw him earn a solo second finish, his best ever at a major.

Jon Rahm
Ryder Cup matches: Rookie
Winning percentage: n/a

Few have made such an impact in the winners’ circle in such a short space of time. Rahm only turned professional in 2016 and needed just 38 starts to notch up four victories, a stat that is only bettered by Woods in the last 30 years.

As such, a debut Ryder Cup appearance will likely be taken in Rahm’s lengthy stride this week. If the large-framed Spaniard can channel is fiery temper he could prove an intimidating opponent for the Americans.  

Rory McIlroy
Ryder Cup matches: 19
Winning percentage: 57%

While the win column isn’t up to the Northern Irishman’s meteoric standards, it has been a good year for McIlroy. Apart from winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in stunning fashion after closing with a sizzling 64, he also had three runners-up performances, most recently at the Open Championship.  

The Ulsterman has been a part of every Ryder Cup since 2010 and has tasted defeat just once at Hazeltine, where Team USA broke their losing streak.

 

Alex Noren
Ryder Cup matches: Rookie
Winning percentage: n/a

The hard-working Swede is one of only two players in this year’s Ryder Cup field to have tasted victory at Le Golf National. Noren won his tenth European Tour title at the HNA Open de France in July, taking the trophy away from teammate Tommy Fleetwood who won in 2017.

With six wins from the last 24 months, Noren’s rise to to the upper echelons of world golf is deserved and now he looks to break new ground for Team Europe.  

Thorbjorn Olesen
Ryder Cup matches: Rookie
Winning percentage: n/a

The final rookie in Team Europe’s’ set up. The lanky Dane sneaks into Bjorn’s squad via qualifying points but has won this season, namely at the Italian Open where he held off teammate Francesco Molinari for a one stroke victory.

Otherwise, the world number 45 finished runner up at the BMW International, third at WGC Bridgestone, fourth at the Nordea Masters and has two other top tens. Consistent much.

Captain’s Picks

Paul Casey
Ryder Cup matches: 9
Winning percentage: 55%

After years in the doldrums, the Englishman picked up his first PGA Tour title in nine years at the Valspar Championship March. More to the point, Casey held off challenges from Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed, certainly helping his case in Bjorn’s mind.

The 41-year-old also holds the honour of being just one of six players to record a hole-in-one in the Ryder Cup. At the K Club in 2006, he earned a victory for himself and David Howell when he holed out at the 213 yard 14th.

Sergio Garcia
Ryder Cup matches: 37
Winning percentage: 60%

The Spaniard is Team Europe’s most experienced campaigner, featuring in eight Ryder Cups. Garcia has enjoyed some superlative runs in the competition, making him the backbone of the team. In 2004, he claimed 4.5 points out of a possible 5 as Europe romped to victory at Oakland Hills.

Even when not selected to play in 2010, he was a vice-captain in Colin Montgomerie’s team and helped Europe to a one point victory. Garcia hasn’t won since his 2017 Masters victory, but expect him to make valuable contributions this week.

 

Ian Poulter
Ryder Cup matches: 18
Winning percentage: 72%

The wily veteran is a player that revels in the psychological pressure cooker of match play golf. In five Ryder Cup appearances, he is undefeated in singles and has lost just four of his 18 matches to date, giving him one of the best winning percentages of the field.

The Englishman was also Europe’s star at the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, winning all of four of his ties and draining five consecutive birdies to help win his four-ball with Rory McIlroy.

Henrik Stenson
Ryder Cup matches: 16
Winning percentage: 50%

The big Swede is another player being picked on reputation. Stenson holed the winning putt on his Ryder Cup debut at the 2006 edition and has featured in three Ryder Cups since, recording seven wins. This experience is likely what swayed Bjorn to pick Stenson.

Otherwise, other career accolades include Stenson becoming the first and so far only player to win the FedEx Cup and the Race To Dubai in the same year, which he did in 2013. He also got the major monkey off his back at the 2016 Open Championship, where he beat Phil Mickelson in a thrilling Sunday afternoon showdown.  

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