2023 Ryder Cup: Has Team Europe Strengthened Since Whistling Straits?

Team Europe, 2023 Ryder Cup, Rome,(Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Team Europe, 2023 Ryder Cup, Rome,(Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images) /

Team Europe dominated Team USA at Le Golf National, Paris, in 2018, so hopes were high going into the ‘away’ fixture at Whistling Straits in 2021. These hopes did not last long for Pádraig Harrington’s team as they fell to a record-equalling defeat of 19-9.

Harrington’s captain’s picks in 2021 of Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia shows that his approach was to stick with the tried and tested method rather than experiment. Conversely, the 2021 Ryder Cup was a changing of the guard for Team USA who introduced 6 rookies and fielded their youngest ever team.

So, has Team Europe changed tact?

Team Europe: Retained Players

  • Rory McIlroy
  • Jon Rahm
  • Viktor Hovland
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Shane Lowry

This group contains 6 of the world’s 13 best-ranked players (with Lowry coming in at 34th) and a cumulative 8 major championships. Fleetwood and Lowry are the only 2 who needed a captain’s pick to make their way into the team as the other 4 qualified automatically.

There will be very little argument about any of these 6 players being the constant faces in the Team Europe locker room as they are in good form and have established themselves on the PGA Tour and in major championships.

Team Europe: Incoming Players

  • Justin Rose
  • Robert MacIntyre
  • Nicolai Højgaard
  • Ludvig Åberg
  • Sepp Straka

Rose returns to the team after missing out on a captain’s pick in 2021, to some surprise. Rose will be a welcome face as he brings his 61% Ryder Cup win rate with him, which is second only to Fleetwood’s 63%. The other four are Ryder Cup rookies.

At only 22 and 23 respectively, Højgaard and Åberg are the youngest two competitors across either team in this year’s contest and will be battling to become the new faces of Team Europe across the next decade of Ryder Cups.

The Scandinavian duo already have three European Tour wins and would be an entertaining pairing if matched together by captain, Luke Donald.

Team Europe: Dropped Players

  • Bernd Wiesberger
  • Paul Casey
  • Lee Westwood
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Ian Poulter

The first observation from this group of players is that they all defected to the LIV Golf tour. The second observation is their age; collectively they are 223 years old and have an average age of 45.

Some of these players have had good Ryder Cup careers, but it goes without saying that their most competitive years on the golf course are behind them.

With only one major championship in this group of careers, it could be argued that Team Europe’s rebuild should have taken place earlier as it’s not sustainable to keep selecting the same old team again and again.

Garcia’s passion and Poulter’s winning record will be warmly remembered, but it’s time for a change.

Team Europe Overall

There is certainly a lot less experience in the new look Team Europe, but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage (just look at USA’s 2021 dominating performance with 6 rookies).

What is far more important is the killer instinct under pressure that Team Europe brings. Rookies are often full of bravado and aren’t held back by any scar tissue or demons from past losses; they can perform freely without those external pressures.

Next. 3 Keys to success for the U.S. Team in Rome. dark

All in all, Team Europe’s changing of the guard shines optimism which helps them look to be a far stronger and more promising bunch than 2021’s ageing veterans.

Play begins on Friday at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, in Rome, Italy.