The 2023 Ryder Cup is rapidly approaching, and European captain Luke Donald has assembled his team with the goal of reclaiming the cup at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Italy following a humbling defeat in 2021 at Whistling Straits. Europe has not suffered a loss on home soil since 1993, but they are entering the Ryder Cup as underdogs. Let’s look at the six auto qualifiers Europe will field to regain the Cup.
It’s often said that the fate of Europe hinges on Rory McIlroy’s performance. Since turning professional in 2007, Rory has consistently occupied the upper echelons of the golfing world, clinching four major championships and accumulating 35 worldwide victories. He has played pivotal roles in Europe’s last three Ryder Cup victories, and his importance this year is even more pronounced. McIlroy is renowned as the world’s premier driver, a skill of utmost importance at Marco Simone, a course that demands both length and precision off the tee. While traversing Marco Simone on foot can be quite a challenge, it would be surprising if Captain Luke Donald did not include Rory in all five sessions.
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Much like Rory, Jon Rahm is expected to participate in all five sessions, barring any issues with fatigue. The Spaniard has notched four victories on tour this season, including a triumph at the Masters, and is virtually a lock for PGA Tour Player of the Year. While Rahm has faced some recent challenges, currently sitting 16th in strokes gained over the past three months, he remains a top-five player in the world and is poised to emerge as the emotional leader of the European squad.
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There is no golfer in the world performing at a higher level than Viktor Hovland. He secured victories in the last two PGA Tour events, with a notable final-round score of 28 on the back nine at the BMW Championship. Although Hovland’s sole Ryder Cup appearance in 2021 at Whistling Straits resulted in a 0-3-2 record, he has undergone a remarkable transformation as a player over the past two years. Expect to see the Norwegian sensation participating in all five sessions this time.
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MacIntyre finished the 2023 season in third place on the European points list, earning him an automatic spot on Captain Donald’s squad. MacIntyre closed the season on a high note, recording three top-five finishes in his last six starts. Despite his ranking as the 31st European player per Data Golf, MacIntyre is considered by some as the least gifted player in Rome. However, during these crucial three days in Rome, past performance takes a back seat, and if there’s one player capable of elevating their play when the stakes are at their highest, it’s the man affectionately known as “Big Shot Bob.”
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Hatton is entering the Ryder Cup on the heels of his best season to date, missing just one cut and finishing inside the top 30 in the season-long standings. Tyrell is undoubtedly the most expressive player on tour, a characteristic that has occasionally posed challenges for him. Fortunately, the Ryder Cup thrives on emotion, and very few players can ignite a team’s spirit like Hatton. Donald likely will pair Hatton with a more composed and calming presence, such as Tommy Fleetwood or Matt Fitzpatrick.
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Similar to Hovland, Fitzpatrick has yet to secure a victory in his Ryder Cup career, holding a record of 0-5-0. Nevertheless, like Hovland, Fitzpatrick has evolved as a player since his two previous appearances. Fitzpatrick now boasts a well-rounded skill set and has turned his driving from a weakness into one of his strengths. With seven years since his Ryder Cup debut and still without a win, Fitzpatrick is eager to contribute his first point for Europe. Expect Captain Donald to pair the Brit with players like Rory or Rahm on Friday morning.
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Europe’s top six players are undoubtedly more talented than their counterparts in the United States, and they will need these contributors to lead the charge if they hope to reclaim the Cup.