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Luke Donald announces Ryder Cup captain’s picks for Team Europe, finalizes 12-man roster

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Luke Donald announces Ryder Cup captain’s picks for Team Europe, finalizes 12-man roster

    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    The European Ryder Cup Team has not lost on home soil in 30 years. The team intent on keeping that streak alive is now formalized. 

    Ludvig Aberg, Tommy Fleetwood, Nicolai Hojgaard, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose and Sepp Straka were revealed as the team’s six captain’s picks to round out the 12-man roster. They join the six automatic qualifiers – Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Robert MacIntyre, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick – who officially qualified following the Omega European Masters on Sunday. Luke Donald announced the captain’s picks Monday.

    "I'm extremely happy with the 12 strong we have, Donald said. "We are in great position."

    The picks are a mix of youth and experience, headlined by the addition of Aberg. After finishing No. 1 in the PGA TOUR University rankings this spring to immediately earn his PGA TOUR card, the 23-year-old rookie quickly asserted himself as a professional. His win at the DP World Tour’s Omega European Masters on Sunday capped what was already an impressive summer. Aberg carded back-to-back top 25s to begin his pro career on TOUR, then finished T4 at the John Deere Classic. He ranks first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee since joining the TOUR, besting some of the best drivers on TOUR like McIlroy and Rahm. The win in Switzerland showed the full potential of Aberg’s tantalizing talent that Donald couldn’t keep off the European Team. Aberg’s rise is without many parallels, at least as it pertains to the Ryder Cup. He will be the first player to play in the Ryder Cup without having played in a major championship, per Justin Ray of Twenty First Group.

    "We obviously knew what he was doing in the college season," Donald said. "You look at what he did those four years and the only comparables really were Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm in the last 20 years. It's that good what he was doing."

    Donald said he challenged Aberg to come play in Europe to lock his spot. He finished fifth two weeks ago, and then won on Sunday.

    The additions of Fleetwood, Lowry and Rose, along with an already seasoned group of automatic qualifiers, provide him plenty of experience to help him prepare.

    Unlike the U.S. Team, which pulls its automatic qualifiers from one ranking, the European Team’s automatic qualifiers are determined from two rankings: the European Points List and the World Points List. 

    The top three from the European Points List qualify first, followed by the top three, not otherwise qualified, from the World Points List. McIlroy, Rahm and MacIntyre qualified off the European Points List. Hovland, Hatton and Fitzpatrick qualified off the World Points List. 

    Here’s a look at the first six golfers on the European Team. For a complete look at the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, click here.

    Rory McIlroy

    FedExCup rank: 4th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 2nd
    European Points List Rank: 1st
    World Points List Rank: 1st
    Ryder Cup record: 12-12-4

    It’s the eighth-straight Ryder Cup appearance for McIlroy, the active record. His 28 matches are the most of any golfer going to Rome, too. His match record, though? Not as rosy as some others. McIlroy has taken his lumps in this event, including going 1-3-0 at Whistling Straits in 2021. Expect an especially motivated McIlroy this time around.

    “I love being a part of this team,” an emotional McIlroy said after Team Europe’s defeat in Wisconsin. “I should have done more for them this week.”

    Whether Team Europe wins this time around may come down to if McIlroy can perform better.

    Best PGA TOUR finish of 2022-23: two wins (THE CJ CUP in South Carolina, Genesis Scottish Open); 13 top 10s; 16/18 cuts made

    Jon Rahm

    FedExCup rank: T18
    Official World Golf Ranking: 3rd
    European Points List Rank: 2nd
    World Points List Rank: 2nd
    Ryder Cup record: 4-3-1

    One of the lone bright spots for the Europeans in the last Ryder Cup, Rahm enters this iteration of the event as an even bigger star. He earned 3.5 of Team Europe’s nine total points at Whistling Straits in 2021.

    A four-time winner in 2023, Rahm’s play dropped off slightly to end the season (he had only three top 10s after his Masters victory). A little time off to rest and recover should help that. Rahm will again be a workhorse for Team Europe.

    Best PGA TOUR finish in 2022-23: four wins (The Sentry, The American Express, The Genesis Invitational, the Masters); 10 top 10s; 18/19 cuts made

    Robert MacIntyre

    FedExCup rank: N/A (6th in DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings)
    Official World Golf Ranking: 55th
    European Points List Rank: 3rd
    World Points List Rank: 10th
    Ryder Cup record: Rookie

    MacIntyre already experienced one near-miss of a lifelong dream: He was in the driver’s seat to win his national open this summer – at the Genesis Scottish Open – before McIlroy snatched it away with two late birdies.

    He didn’t miss another. MacIntyre made no secret of his desire to play in the Ryder Cup, and he will make his debut after automatically qualifying. With others bearing down on MacIntyre for the final automatic spot through the European Points List, he finished the season with three top fives in his last six starts.

    Best finish of 2023 (PGA TOUR): runner-up (Genesis Scottish Open); Best DP WORLD TOUR finish of 2023: runner-up (Genesis Scottish Open); six top 10s; 14/18 cuts made

    Viktor Hovland

    FedExCup rank: 1st
    Official World Golf Ranking: 4th
    European Points List Rank: 17th
    World Points List Rank: 3rd
    Ryder Cup record: 0-3-2

    Hovland will get his first taste of a European Ryder Cup in Rome. It was a difficult debut for him at Whistling Straits, but he wasn’t alone. Hovland is also a much more accomplished player than he was in 2021.

    He’s gone from two wins to six, including three Designated Event wins in 2022-23. Hovland is arguably the hottest player in Rome following his back-to-back victories in the FedExCup. With a renewed sense of belief in his game and himself, Hovland could prove to be an issue for the U.S. Team.

    Best PGA TOUR finish of 2022-23: three wins (the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday; BMW Championship; TOUR Championship; nine top 10s, 23/23 cuts made

    Viktor Hovland’s transformed short game leads to FedExCup title

    Tyrrell Hatton

    FedExCup rank: 16th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 13th
    European Points List Rank: 11th
    World Points List Rank: 4th
    Ryder Cup record: 2-4-1

    He will arrive in Rome coming off his most consistent season since joining the PGA TOUR. Hatton missed only one cut this season and finished inside the top 25 in 13 of his 21 events. He added three top-10 finishes and made a career-high $8.3 million. Hatton was one of the only three Europeans with a losing record during the 2018 Ryder Cup.

    Best PGA TOUR finish of 2022-23: runner-up (THE PLAYERS Championship); seven top 10s; 20/21 cuts made

    Tyrrell Hatton on his decision-making and strategy on difficult holes

    Matt Fitzpatrick

    FedExCup rank: 9th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 8th
    European Points List Rank: 28th
    World Points List Rank: 6th
    Ryder Cup record: 0-5-0

    You can bet Fitzpatrick is ready for that Ryder Cup record to change. It’s been a tough go for him, though both of his appearances have come in the U.S. He was only 22 years old in his first appearance in 2016 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

    Fitzpatrick has been a much-improved player since 2016 and even since his last appearance in 2021. He became one of the best drivers on TOUR since that appearance in Wisconsin and won the 2022 U.S. Open.

    That should help him improve, but nothing is guaranteed at the Ryder Cup, especially when you’re trying to win your first match seven years after you debuted in the event.

    Best PGA TOUR finish of 2022-23: win (RBC Heritage); six top 10s; 17/23 cuts made

    Matt Fitzpatrick's best shots of his career ... so far

    Ludvig Aberg

    FedExCup rank: 135th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 90th
    World Points List Rank: 58th
    Ryder Cup record: Rookie

    How’s that for a final statement? Aberg had been trending toward receiving a captain’s pick already, but his performance in Switzerland surely locked it up. Aberg fired a final-round 64 to win the Omega European Masters by two shots, including four birdies in his final five holes. It’s his first win as a professional.

    His Ryder Cup debut will come less than four months after his professional debut at the RBC Canadian Open. That will come with loads of pressure for the TOUR rookie. Given how he’s handled himself thus far, that may not be an issue.

    "It's been quite a lot these last couple of months, but it's been so exciting, I can't wait for Rome," Aberg said.

    Best finish of 2023 (PGA TOUR): T4 (John Deere Classic); Best DP WORLD TOUR finish of 2023: win (Omega European Masters); three top 10s; 8/9 cuts made

    Tommy Fleetwood

    FedExCup rank: 6th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 14th
    European Points List Rank: 7th
    World Points List Rank: 6th
    Ryder Cup record: 4-2-2

    He was one of the stars of the 2018 Ryder Cup, where the team of Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari went 4-0-0 in matches together. Fleetwood will be without his partner this time around, but he is playing some of the best golf of his career. He ranks fifth in Strokes Gained: Total through the TOUR Championship, second-best among Europeans behind only McIlroy. 

    "Getting this one feels very very special," Fleetwood said. "I was one of a group of players that stood on the last green of the last Ryder Cup and wanted the opportunity to come as soon as possible where we could make this team and go and try and get this Ryder Cup back."

    Best finish of 2022-23: runner-up (RBC Canadian Open); nine top 10s; 18/21 cuts made

    Nicolai Hojgaard

    FedExCup rank: N/A (15th in DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings)
    Official World Golf Ranking: 78th
    European Points List Rank: 25th
    World Points List Rank: 16th
    Ryder Cup record: Rookie

    A Special Temporary Member on the PGA TOUR, the 22-year-old Hojgaard has split his time overseas and in the States this season. He finished runner-up in his first TOUR event of the season, at the Corales Puntacana Championship. 

    He made a valiant push for the Ryder Cup, finishing T6 at the Genesis Scottish Open, T23 at the Open Championship, third at the D+D Real Czech Masters and T5 at the Omega European Masters to lock up his spot. He also won the 2021 Italian Open, hosted at Marco Simone Golf Club, this year’s Ryder Cup venue.  

    It’s an ahead-of-schedule appearance for Hojgaard, 22, and Aberg, 23, and should provide a glimpse of a duo that will be on Ryder Cup teams for years to come.

    "It's hard to put into words at the moment," Hojgaard said. "... I can't describe how excited I am. It's been a goal of mine and to be on a team with guys I've been looking up to my whole life is amazing and I can't wait to battle it out in Rome."

    Best finish of 2023 (PGA TOUR): runner-up (Corales Puntacana Championship); two top 10s; 9/12 cuts made; Best DP WORLD TOUR finish of 2023: third (D+D Real Czech Masters); five top 10s

    Shane Lowry

    FedExCup rank: 78th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 37th
    European Points List Rank: 11th
    World Points List Rank: 8th
    Ryder Cup record: 1-2-0

    An underwhelming season for Lowry could take a turn for the better in Rome. Lowry narrowly missed the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time in five years. Lowry wasn’t devoid of good golf (he notched nine top 25s), he just wasn’t playing consistently great golf. He finished with just one top-10 finish. Lowry is another who made his debut at Whistling Straits and will have the benefit of a friendly environment in his second go-around. 

    "The last one hurt a little bit and I'm excited for a home Ryder Cup and, like I said, very grateful that Luke has given me the opportunity to go there and show what I can do again," Lowry said.

    "We don't get to do it that often, play team golf," Lowry said. "I grew up in a family of team sports and it's what I love. The experience I had at Whistling Straits, even though we got beat quite heavily, was incredible and it will be something I remember forever."

    Best finish of 2022-23: T5 (The Honda Classic); one top 10; 15/18 cuts made

    Justin Rose

    FedExCup rank: 34th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 34th
    European Points List Rank: 94th
    World Points List Rank: 9th
    Ryder Cup record: 13-8-2

    It’s Rose’s sixth Ryder Cup appearance. He was left off the 2021 team that lost in record fashion to the Americans at Whistling Straits – but maybe that’s a good thing. He will look to conjure the same play that helped Team Europe trounce the U.S. the last time the Ryder Cup was hosted on foreign soil. 

    "This has been a huge motivation for me," Rose said. "Number six sounds all quite smooth like they've been coming along at a decent pace but the last one definitely hurt not being a part of it and obviously my form wasn't great around that time."

    Best finish of 2022-23: win (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am); five top 10s; 14/20 cuts made

    Justin Rose’s winning highlights from AT&T Pebble Beach

    Sepp Straka

    FedExCup rank: 14th
    Official World Golf Ranking: 23rd
    European Points List Rank: 45th
    World Points List Rank: 7th
    Ryder Cup record: Rookie

    One of four rookies on the European Team, Straka rose to prominence with back-to-back career seasons. The Austrian has won twice since the last Ryder Cup and finished inside the top three on four other occasions. He is 23rd in the OWGR, the best mark of his career. 

    "It was a definite goal to make the team but it kind of always felt so distant and so far away," Straka said. "I just knew I had to play some good golf and thankfully I showed some form in the summer and held onto that."

    Best finish of 2022-23: win (John Deere Classic); five top 10s; 20/28 cuts made

    Sepp Straka’s winning highlights from John Deere Classic

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