While the vast majority of Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup six wildcards picked themselves, Europe’s captain has ensured he will lead a balanced team in the quest to win the trophy back in Italy.
The youthful desire to 23-year-old Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg and Denmark’s Nicolai Højgaard, 22, is matched by the cunning know-how of Justin Rose and Shane Lowry.
Tommy Fleetwood was always going to be in the side and so was Sepp Straka after the Austrian’s second place at The Open last July. They complement powerful figures such as Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland.
But the recent form of Lowry and Rose is a concern. The Irishman has not posted a top 10 since finishing fifth at the Honda Classic in February, while Rose missed the cuts at the US and Scottish Opens as well as The Open at Hoylake.
The Englishman said he has proven he is ready for the Ryder Cup but knows he needs to be “Ryder Cup-winning ready” for what will be his sixth appearance.
“It’s really the start of the mission,” Rose said. “I’ve always really tried and enjoyed the process of trying to prepare for big championships, trying to peak at the right time and that’s my challenge now.
“As a player it’s just what I can do over the next three weeks to be ready to get points. Just to go out there and put myself in the best opportunity to get a point and that’s why you’re on the team.”
From a European point of view, Rose lives normally when she wears European colors. He boasts an enviable record of 13 wins, eight losses and two halves in his five appearances to date.
He has been particularly impressive in fourball games and, having been left out of the 2021 defeat, could prove a valuable dummy for one of the four rookies included in the European squad when play gets underway on September 29 at the Marco Simone Country Club near Rome.
Lowry’s Ryder Cup experience is more limited. He made an impassioned debut at Whistling Straits two years ago but managed just one point from a possible three as the USA romped to their record 19-9 victory.
The 36-year-old has struggled on the greens for most of this year, but sometimes matchplay – where there’s often less worry about a potential follow-up putt – can unlock a freer and more effective stroke.
Donald insists that a loss at Wisconsin means his team must be considered underdogs, never mind that they are undefeated at home in the last three decades.
And in Aberg he has what he describes as a “generational talent” at his disposal. A fantastic hitter, the Swede seems to have the X-factor to seize the moment when it is most needed.
His surge to victory at the European Masters on Sunday earned his place on the team in ruthless fashion. To rise to Ryder Cup level so soon after turning pro is an extraordinary rise.
“He turned pro in June and it felt like we started talking about the Ryder Cup in July,” Rose noted.
“So the fact that he’s played almost 75% of his professional career with the pressure of trying to make a Ryder Cup team is pretty impressive.
“And then on the last day of the campaign, he makes it a bit of a no-brainer for the captain.”
Aberg is the first golfer to play in the Ryder Cup with no major experience. But everything about his career to date suggests he will be inspired rather than hampered by the gladiatorial cauldron of this two-year dust-up.
“These are the events you want to be a part of,” Aberg said. “You want that shot; you want that putt to get a point.
“And I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of these team events with the amateur events, which are on a whole different level, and I understand that. I’m super excited to get to Rome.”
The golfing world should be equally excited to see such an amazing talent on the biggest stage for the first time. Aberg’s other rookies are Højgaard, Straka and Bob MacIntyre.
The left-handed Scot edged home in the qualification table at the expense of Poland’s Adrian Meronk, for whom there should be considerable sympathy. To have come so close to one of only six automatic berths and ultimately not play on the course where he won the Italian Open in May is a bitter pill to swallow.
MacIntyre brings infectious enthusiasm and character to the European team room and has the potential to make a statement debut. He is popular with his colleagues and there will be many who will welcome him as a fourball partner.
But ultimately, so much will depend on how the big guns perform. Rahm, McIlroy and Hovland are the leaders and 2022 US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick will be looking to break his duck after being sorely underused in his two appearances to date.
Bookies have the USA as slight favourites, but skipper Zach Johnson, who also has four rookies in his 12-man squad, is also keen to capitalize on underdog status.
He will look for his side to follow in the lead of the country’s amateurs, who staged a fine comeback win to retain the Walker Cup against Great Britain and Ireland in St Andrews last Sunday.
For the Ryder Cup, both teams look well-balanced and evenly matched. It could be a very close contest, something we haven’t seen since Europe’s victory by a point in the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ more than ten years ago.