Luke Donald, European Ryder Cup Captain, surprised some by picking a newcomer in Swede Ludvig Aberg for his upcoming Ryder Cup team. But he already had plenty of stars and veterans to go with them and noted that they have to think about the future as well as the present.
Donald already had the luxury of having the World Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 8 on his Ryder Cup squad, meaning Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, and Matt Fitzpatrick. He just needed to add some hot players and some dependable professionals who he knows will rise to the occasion.
After all, Europe has won with four or five big players in past Ryder Cup years when they hardly had a supporting cast. Donald doesn’t have that kind of problem. He’s spoilt for choice, as the Brits like to say.
There are five returning veterans for Europe in McIlroy, Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose, and Tommy Fleetwood. And how strong is their team to have a recent British Open champ like Shane Lowry as a pick?
It’s expected that McIlroy and Lowry will partner at some point as both are from the same island, even if two different countries.
After his big guns, Donald has Robert MacIntyre to go along with his picks which include the aforementioned Lowry, Sepp Straka, total rookie Ludvig Aberg, and Nicolai Hojgaard, a relative newcomer who has two victories on the DP World Tour. Aberg is so new, he was the top PGA Tour University player this spring. He’s so good that he just won at the European Masters.
Tommy Fleetwood is half of the 2018 Moliwood team of Francesco Molinari and Fleetwood that went 4-0 against the U.S. So, he just needs to find a new partner or at least someone whose name goes well with either Fleet or Wood to give them a new nickname. RoseWood perhaps? Not bad to have a partner who won a U.S. Open and an Olympic gold medal.
If he pairs with Fitzpatrick, maybe it’s FitzFleet.
There are plenty of Ryder Cup possibilities…
And the Euros do like to have fun.
But maybe Justin Rose will be saved for Matt Fitzpatrick who is a Ryder Cup rookie.
It’s expected that McIlroy and Lowry will partner at some point as both are from the same island, even if two different countries. But McIlroy or Lowry may be needed to partner with someone like Hojgaard or Aberg.
Jon Rahm will surely miss Sergio Garcia, who he partnered with at Whistling Straits to go 3-0-0 in what eventually was a losing effort for the Europeans. Not only is Garcia not playing, but there is no other Spaniard on the team.
The fact that Ian Poulter, Garcia, and others joined LIV golf made way for newcomers to the event, like Sepp Straka, an Austrian-born player who has been playing in the US for many years, first in college and now on the PGA Tour. He won the Honda Classic in 2022 and the John Deere Classic in 2023. Straka may be the only Austrian with a Georgia accent as he has lived in Valdosta, Georgia, for 16 years, since he was a teenager.
Look for McIlroy, Rahm, Hovland, Rose, and possibly Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick to play five matches each. Their goal will be to squeak out 14 ½ points between them because that’s what Europe needs to win the cup. The U.S., because it has the Ryder Cup now, needs only 14 to keep it.
Donald, appearing on Golf Channel, was mum on his possible partnerships, saying that he would not reveal them until closer to the time of the matches.
However, a preview of coming attractions may be seen at the two upcoming DP World Tour events, the Horizon Irish Open and the BMW PGA Championship. All team members are expected to play at the BMW PGA.