European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald says his team “have their work cut out” as they seek to wrest the trophy back from the United States.
After a record 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021, Donald has the unenviable task of trying to maintain the hosts’ 30-year unbeaten record on home soil.
On paper the Americans have the superior team, with 10 of their 12 players currently in the world’s top 20, and even though Europe have three of the top four, Donald is aware of the challenge which awaits in Italy.
“I know it’s going to be a difficult next few days, it really is. The US are very strong. We know that,” he said at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.
“We are coming off our worst defeat ever in a Ryder Cup. US players are strong, high up in the world rankings and they have some great partnerships and have had a lot of success.
“We have our work cut out but as captain you have to be confident. I certainly have a lot of belief in my team and you have to have belief that you’re going to get them into a place where they are going to be successful.”
Who is in Team Europe?
Along with his appointed vice-captains Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari, José María Olazábal, Thomas Bjorn and Nicolas Colsaerts, Donald has made some big calls with his wildcards.
The spine of his team had already been locked in through automatic qualification: Rory McIlroy, John Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick and Bob MacIntyre were already confirmed for Team Europe before the wildcard announcement, where they were augmented by two Englishmen, an Irishman, an Austrian, a Swede and a Dane.
Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
Jon Rahm (Spain)
Bob MacIntyre (Scotland)
Viktor Hovland (Norway)
Tyrrell Hatton (England)
Matt Fitzpatrick (England)
Tommy Fleetwood (England)
Sepp Straka (Austria)
Justin Rose (England)
Shane Lowry (Ireland)
Nicolai Hojgaard (Denmark)
Ludvig Aberg (Sweden)
Who is in Team USA?
Five-time major winner Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns and Rickie Fowler complete the US captain’s six picks to join automatic qualifiers Scottie Scheffler, Open Champion Brian Harman, US Open winner Wyndham Clark, Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schuaffele.
Thomas failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs and admitted it had been “humiliating and embarrassing” to card a second round of 81 in the US Open in June.
The two-time major winner also carded an opening 82 in the Open at Royal Liverpool, but has still been selected by Johnson ahead of the likes of Keegan Bradley and Cameron Young.
Team USA’s first-time captain was asked during Monday’s opening press conference why he did not call on Bryson DeChambeau and other Ryder Cup veterans such as Dustin Johnson.
“Yeah, I can answer all of those in a very simple manner,” Johnson said. “We have a points system within The PGA of America, within the Ryder Cup USA. It’s pretty evident... how you garner points and which tournaments can accumulate points.
“I have my own top 30 but when it got down towards the end of the process, it was the top 20, the top 25 guys in that point system that I felt like had the merit and certainly, well, should have my full attention. That’s where I was. I was basically in the top 20, top 25 guys in points when it came down to formulating this Team USA.”
Koepka finished seventh in the US Ryder Cup standings, with No. 15 Justin Thomas the lowest-ranked player to receive a captain’s pick.
With only the four majors to accumulate Ryder Cup points in, Johnson finished 40th and DeChambeau 54th. Dustin Johnson has fallen to 114th in the Official World Golf Ranking while DeChambeau is 128th. Talor Gooch, another multiple-time LIV winner, finished 89th in the Ryder Cup standings and is now 167th in the world.
DeChambeau, who is a combined 2-3-1 in two previous Ryder Cup appearances, said he hopes the qualification system will be different when the event returns to the US in New York two years from now.
Why has Brooks Koepka been selected?
The key distinction with the US team is that Ryder Cup eligibility is not linked to the PGA Tour but to membership of the PGA of America.
All of American’s LIV players remain members of the PGA of America, if not the PGA Tour. Koepka won the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May and finished second at the Masters, although that was not enough to qualify for the team automatically. Johnson decided that form was strong enough to warrant a captain’s pick.
Why are Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and other LIV golfers not playing in the Ryder Cup?
Players must be members of the DP World Tour in order to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, something Garcia, Westwood and others gave up earlier this year.
The likes of Garcia, Westwood and Ian Poulter were fined up to £100,000 and given a three-event ban as punishment for breaking away from the Tour.
These sanctions were subject to a legal challenge from the players, but when the punishments were upheld Europe’s LIV players decided to hand in their cards.
Speaking in between practice rounds in the build-up to the Ryder Cup, Rory McIlroy said that the absent LIV rebels would miss the Ryder Cup more than the European team would miss them.