Golf

From Rahm to Rory, Bryson to Brooks, ranking all 24 players in the Ryder Cup

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Tiger Woods won’t be playing in this week’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Neither will Phil Mickelson, though he is here and will serve as a non-playing assistant captain for the United States team.

Six rookies are giving a face-lift to the American side, which has lost four of five and nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups to the Europeans.

The Americans, playing on U.S. soil, are a 2-1 favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Captain Steve Stricker’s team has eight of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, and European captain Padraig Harrington’s squad has just one (No. 1 Jon Rahm). The average ranking of the 12 Americans is 8.9; for the Europeans, it’s 30.8.

Here’s how the 24 players competing in the 43rd Ryder Cup stack up:

1. Jon Rahm

Team: Europe
Country: Spain
Age: 26
World ranking: 1
Major championship wins: 1 (2021 U.S. Open)
Ryder Cup record: 1-2-0 (one appearance)

Breakdown: The Spaniard was the best player in the world this season, posting 15 top-10 finishes. He didn’t get to compete in the Tokyo Olympics because of a positive COVID-19 test, after he also was forced to withdraw from the Memorial in June with a 6-shot lead after 54 holes because of a different positive test. He had a losing record at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris, but memorably took down Tiger Woods, 2 and 1, in a Sunday singles match.

2. Justin Thomas

Team: United States
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Age: 28
World ranking: 6
Major championship wins: 1 (2017 PGA Championship)
Ryder Cup record: 4-1 (one appearance)

Breakdown: Despite playing with a sore wrist, Thomas performed well under pressure in his first Ryder Cup appearance, in Paris, helping earn four of Team USA’s 10.5 points. JT and Jordan Spieth went 3-1 while playing together. Thomas had a 1-up victory over Rory McIlroy in singles play. Thomas has been America’s best player in international competitions; he went 10-3-2 combined at the 2017 and 2019 Presidents Cups. Thomas and Spieth figure to once again be Team USA’s best duo.

3. Jordan Spieth

Team: United States
Hometown: Dallas
Age: 28
World ranking: 13
Major championship wins: 3
(2015 Masters, 2015 U.S. Open, 2017 Open Championship)
Ryder Cup record: 7-5-2 (three appearances)

Breakdown: Spieth’s resurgence, after a nearly four-year slump, was one of the best stories in golf this year. He won the Valero Texas Open in April, tied for third at the Masters and was solo runner-up at The Open at Royal St. George’s. Spieth teamed with Patrick Reed to help the Americans win at Hazeltine in 2016, then provided a spark with Thomas in a losing cause in Paris. (The breakup with Reed caused a well-documented rift.) Spieth was runner-up to Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He’ll be a fan favorite for the Americans this week.

4. Rory McIlroy

Team: Europe
Country: Northern Ireland
Age: 32
World ranking: 15
Major championship wins: 4 (2011 U.S. Open, 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships, 2014 Open Championship)
Ryder Cup record: 11-9-4 (five appearances)

Breakdown: The Ryder Cup veteran admitted last month that he was mentally and physically exhausted after playing 34 tournaments in just over a year. He won the Wells Fargo Championship in May — his first victory in 553 days — and was solo fourth at the BMW Championship, a sign that his form is turning around at the right time. He has been a part of four winning European teams since 2010, earning 13 points along the way. If Whistling Straits is set up for scoring, McIlroy might be very comfortable. He led the tour in birdie average (4.52 per round) but couldn’t avoid big numbers.

5. Patrick Cantlay

Team: United States
Hometown: Long Beach, California
Age: 29
World ranking: 4
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: Talk about a heater. Cantlay closed out an already-impressive 2021 season with victories at the BMW Championship and then the Tour Championship. He was voted PGA Tour player of the year by his peers. After a few near-misses earlier in his career, Cantlay showed his putting prowess under pressure during a six-hole playoff against Bryson DeChambeau at the BMW, which earned him the moniker “Patty Ice” from the gallery. He’ll have to overcome his nerves again as a Ryder Cup first-timer.

6. Ian Poulter

Team: Europe
Country: England
Age: 45
World ranking: 50
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 14-6-2 (six appearances)

Breakdown: The second-oldest player in the field, Poulter has been as much of a thorn in the Americans’ side as Garcia. The Englishman’s recent form hasn’t been great, but it was good enough for him to be chosen with a captain’s pick for a fifth time, which is all you need to know about his value in the team room. Poulter has never lost a singles match at the Ryder Cup. Few players are as competitive or emotional. He will be the heart and soul of Team Europe once again.

7. Xander Schauffele

Team: United States
Hometown: San Diego
Age: 27
World ranking: 5
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: Given Schauffele’s myriad close calls in majors, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t play very well on this big stage, too. He won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics to go with eight top-10 finishes in 22 tour starts this season. He went 3-2 while helping the Americans win the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia. There will be big expectations for the anticipated tandem of Schauffele and Cantlay.

8. Tony Finau

Team: United States
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Age: 32
World ranking: 9
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 2-1-0 (one appearance)

Breakdown: Finau secured a captain’s pick after his victory at the Northern Trust during the FedEx Cup Playoffs in August, his first win in more than five years. Another big hitter, Finau played well in his first Ryder Cup in Paris, earning two points and walloping Tommy Fleetwood, 6 and 4, in singles.

9. Sergio Garcia

Team: Europe
Country: Spain
Age: 41
World ranking: 43
Major championship wins: 1 (2017 Masters)
Ryder Cup record: 22-12-7 (nine appearances)

Breakdown: If Reed is “Captain America,” then Garcia might be the European king. This will be his 10th appearance at the Ryder Cup, after he played for the first time at age 19 in 1999. On top of that, he’s Europe’s leading career scorer with 25.5 points. He was an easy captain’s choice for Padraig Harrington and has been playing well lately.

10. Brooks Koepka

Team: United States
Hometown: West Palm Beach, Florida
Age: 31
World ranking: 10
Major championship wins: 4 (2018 and 2019 PGA Championships, 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens)
Ryder Cup record: 4-3-1 (two appearances)

Breakdown: The four-time major champion is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world when he is healthy and dialed in. But he withdrew from the Tour Championship in August with a left wrist injury, which occurred when his club hit a tree root. He had surgery on his right knee on March 16 to repair a dislocated kneecap and damaged ligaments. He said last week that he’s good to go for the Ryder Cup. His comments about disliking certain aspects of team play probably won’t sit well with some in the team room.

11. Viktor Hovland

Team: Europe
Country: Norway
Age: 23
World ranking: 14
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: The first Norwegian to compete in the Ryder Cup, he is also the first man from his homeland to win on the PGA Tour and European Tour. In just two full seasons on tour, Hovland has already piled up more than $7.8 million in winnings and advanced to the Tour Championship twice, tying for fifth this September.

12. Paul Casey

Team: Europe
Country: England
Age: 44
World ranking: 24
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 4-3-5 (four appearances)

Breakdown: The Englishman has been part of three winning teams and earned 1.5 points in Paris after he went a decade between Ryder Cup appearances. He has been steady in this competition, earning at least a half-point in nine of his 12 career matches. He had seven top-10s on tour this season and won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour in January.

13. Dustin Johnson

Team: United States
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina
Age: 37
World ranking: 2
Major championship wins: 2 (2016 U.S. Open, 2020 Masters)
Ryder Cup record: 7-9 (four appearances)

Breakdown: The former World No. 1 hasn’t won since slipping on his first green jacket at Augusta in November. In fact, DJ hasn’t had a top-five finish since then. He went 1-3 and looked out of sorts in Paris. At the 2010 PGA Championship, at Whistling Straits, Johnson had a 1-shot lead when he was given a 2-stroke penalty for unintentionally grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole. The gaffe caused him to miss out on a playoff and a chance to win his first major.

14. Collin Morikawa

Team: United States
Hometown: Los Angeles
Age: 24
World ranking: 3
Major championship wins: 2 (2020 PGA Championship, 2021 Open Championship)
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: Everything seems to have come easy for Morikawa, who won on tour for the first time in his eighth start, won his first major in his PGA Championship debut, and then won his second major — The Open — in his eighth start in one. It would be silly to think he’ll falter in his first Ryder Cup, right? A lower back injury helped lead to a missed cut at the Northern Trust and a tie for 63rd at the BMW Championship, but he said it’s no longer an issue.

15. Bryson DeChambeau

Team: United States
Hometown: Modesto, California
Age: 28
World ranking: 7
Major championship wins: 1 (2020 U.S. Open)
Ryder Cup record: 0-3-0 (one appearance)

Breakdown: DeChambeau figures to be an X factor for the Americans — or a conundrum for Steve Stricker and his co-captains. DeChambeau’s length off the tee would undoubtedly come in handy at Whistling Straits, but his ongoing beef with teammate Brooks Koepka and unpopularity with fans (even some Americans) could make things downright uncomfortable. Stricker also can’t be happy that DeChambeau told Golf.com last week that his hands were “wrecked” with calluses from intense training for a long-driving competition. He failed to earn a point in Paris.

16. Lee Westwood

Team: Europe
Country: England
Age: 48
World ranking: 35
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 20-18-6 (10 appearances)

Breakdown: The oldest player in the field, Westwood was a rookie competing in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama — only eight days after Viktor Hovland was born. He was a vice captain in 2018, which ended his streak of 10 straight appearances as a player. His 11 starts overall ties Nick Faldo’s record. Westwood has been a more accomplished bandmate than solo act at the Ryder Cup; he’s 17-11-6 with a partner but only 3-7 in singles.

17. Daniel Berger

Team: United States
Hometown: Plantation, Florida
Age: 28
World ranking: 16
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: Few players have been as steady as Berger, who had eight top-10 finishes in 23 starts this past season, including a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. The four-time tour winner ranked 11th in shots gained total and third in bogey avoidance.

18. Tyrrell Hatton

Team: Europe
Country: England
Age: 29
World ranking: 19
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 1-2-0 (one appearance)

Breakdown: The Englishman, known for his fiery on-course demeanor, might be leaned on for emotion this week. If the galleries get impolite, don’t be surprised if Hatton snaps back. He didn’t fare too badly in his Ryder Cup debut in Paris, splitting a pair of matches with Casey and losing his singles match 3 and 2 to Reed.

19. Tommy Fleetwood

Team: Europe
Country: England
Age: 30
World ranking: 37
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 4-1 (one appearance)

Breakdown: The Englishman struggled to find his game after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus and stunningly lost his PGA Tour card. He has played well lately on the European Tour, tying for second at the Italian Open and for 12th at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He was a big reason for Europe’s success in Paris, securing four points, with his only loss coming against Finau in singles.

20. Scottie Scheffler

Team: United States
Hometown: Dallas
Age: 25
World ranking: 21
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: The Texan is the least experienced player on Team USA with only 63 career tour starts. For what it’s worth, he has performed well in team settings (tying for eighth with Bubba Watson at the two-man Zurich Classic in New Orleans) and in match play (finishing runner-up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play). Scheffler’s nerves have also held up at the majors; he tied for eighth at The Open and the PGA Championship this past season. He averaged 305 yards off the tee last season, which should help him at Whistling Straits.

21. Harris English

Team: United States
Hometown: Sea Island, Georgia
Age: 32
World ranking: 11
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: English ended a drought of more than seven years without a victory on tour by winning twice in 2021 — at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and Travelers Championship. He isn’t exceptionally long off the tee, but more than makes up for it with his work on and around the greens. He was 14th on tour in birdie average (4.26 per round).

22. Shane Lowry

Team: Europe
Country: Ireland
Age: 34
World ranking: 42
Major championship wins: One (2019 Open Championship)
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Lowry carried the Claret Jug as Open champion for nearly two years. Harrington, as Europe’s captain, caught a little heat for selecting the fellow Irishman over England’s Justin Rose, but contends he put Lowry under even greater scrutiny because of the connection. Lowry was eighth at The Players and tied for fourth at the PGA Championship.

23. Matt Fitzpatrick

Team: Europe
Country: England
Age: 27
World ranking: 27
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: 0-2-0 (one appearance)

Breakdown: The Englishman is back on the team after going 0-2-0 at Hazeltine in 2016. Fitzpatrick said he was disappointed he didn’t play more as a rookie, while failing to earn a point in Europe’s 17-11 loss, the biggest rout at the event in 35 years. He tied for second at the Scottish Open this past season.

24. Bernd Wiesberger

Team: Europe
Country: Austria
Age: 35
World ranking: 63
Major championship wins: None
Ryder Cup record: Rookie

Breakdown: Wiesberger is the first Austrian to compete for Europe and the lowest-ranked player on either team. He didn’t earn a spot until the final week of qualifying. He has won eight times in seven countries on the European Tour and fired a 6-under 66 in the second round of the Masters in April.

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