Twenty-three months after the Whistling Straits Ryder Cup came to a close, the Rome Ryder Cup is now officially here as European captain Luke Donald finalized his roster with six captains picks Monday.
In a 30-minute made-for-TV show on Golf Channel, one week after the American team was finalized, Donald punched the Ryder Cup tickets for Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Sepp Straka, Shane Lowry, Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard.
Those six picks join the following auto qualifiers who locked their spots on the team throughout the summer:
Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Robert MacIntyre, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland
The discourse surrounding the European team throughout 2023 has been exclusively about its bottom half. Who would join the McIlroys and Rahms, who have both shined in Ryder Cups past, but who were also involved in the biggest blowout in modern Ryder Cup history two years ago.
First came Justin Rose, who won at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, basically assuring himself a spot and carrying good form throughout the summer. MacIntyre auto-qualified Sunday via Team Europe’s point list, largely in thanks to his second place finish at the Scottish Open in July. Lowry has mostly been a guarantee throughout the entire process, having been one of the few bright lights at the 2021 Cup in Wisconsin. Sepp Straka’s July included a win at the John Deere Classic and a T2 finish at the Open Championship in England.
Slowly but surely it all came down to two final picks waiting there for the taking during a final sprint on the DP World Tour. Those two winners were Hojgaard and Aberg, who, unlike the captain’s picks of the American team, played some of their best golf during the final few weeks before selection.
Aberg likely didn’t need a victory at the Omega European Masters this week, but he went out and got one anyway, chasing down the lead and pushing ahead with a 66-64 weekend.
The final pick likely came down to two or three names, and shrouded in much more secrecy than that of the American side. Donald had to consider Adrian Meronk, the Polish star who won the Italian Open this year on the very course where the Ryder Cup will be held in three weeks. Meronk has also shown decent form of late, finishing T13 this week in Switzerland.
But in the end, Donald went in a different, slightly surprising direction with Hojgaard. The 22-year-old will be the fourth rookie on this European team, largely thanks to his last few weeks. There was his T6 finish in Scotland, his T23 at the Open in England and a T14 at the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina before going 3rd —> T5 the last two weeks in Europe.
“Part of my having six picks was I wanted some very in-form players,” Donald said during the televised show. “And what he did the last two weeks was very, very special.”
Special enough to merit a captain’s pick at just 22 years old. Hojgaard, Straka, Aberg and MacIntyre — Europe’s four rookies — bring Team Europe’s average age down to 30, making it one of the younger European teams in recent memory. But they’ll have plenty of veteran experience on their side, as well as the fact that the Europeans haven’t lost a home Ryder Cup in 30 years.
The American side they’ll be taking on is nearly just as young, and features three of this year’s major champions:
Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa