Excitement is at fever pitch as the days count down to the start of the Ryder Cup on Friday. Europe will attempt to regain the cup with 5 rookies in their side. But where are the 6 European rookies who played the 2016 edition?
Danny Willett was arguably the most high profile rookie to play in the 2016 Ryder Cup, given that he had triumphed at the Masters earlier that year. However, the Englishman had a poor Ryder Cup, picking up 0 points from 3 games. That poor form continued after the Ryder Cup, resulting in him missing a catalog of cuts, splitting with caddie Jonathon Smart and coach Pete Cowen.
Danny Willett of England during day three of Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on September 22, 2018 in Vilamoura, Portugal. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
At the time of writing, Willett was 310th in the Official World Golf Ranking, a 301 place slide from his position following victory at Augusta. Moreover, despite an improvement in form during the 2018 season, Willett was worlds away from qualifying for a second European Ryder Cup berth, finishing 48th on the European and 69th on the World Points lists respectively.
Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur Championship in 2013, the first Englishman to win the competition since 1911 and the first European to win since 2006. The Englishman turned professional after the 2014 US Open and won his first European Tour title a year later at the 2015 edition of the British Masters.
Further success followed in early 2016 at the Nordea Masters, a victory that went some way to concreting automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup.
Matthew Fitzpatrick of England celebrates with the trophy after winning The Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club on September 9, 2018 in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Like Willett though, Fitzpatrick had an unhappy time at Hazeltine leaving the event with a record of 2 losses in 2 matches. But that is where the golfing comparison with Willet ends, as unlike his compatriot, Fitzpatrick dusted himself off following the completion of the biennial tournament, and found success again collecting wins at the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, and the 2017 and 2018 Omega European Masters.
Fitzpatrick finished 9th and 12th on the World and European points list respectively and is one player that can feel particularly upset about being left out of this year’s European side.
Thomas Pieters was one rookie who did play well in his maiden Ryder Cup. The Belgian recovered from an opening morning defeat alongside Lee Westwood to form a tantalizing partnership with Rory Mcilroy, that yielded 3 points from 3 matches, his Sunday Singles victory over JB Holmes was also particularly impressive.
The now 26-year-old was one of Captain Darren Clarke’s picks for the tournament and was a bright spot amidst a bleak picture for Europe. However, Pieters is without a win since 2016 and after two average years that have seen him slip to 67th in the World rankings and finish 21st and 24th on the European and World Points list’s respectively, his absence from this year’s competition is hardly surprising.
Andy Sullivan left Hazeltine with a 100% losing record after, falling to defeat in both matches he took part in. Sullivan has played poorly since qualifying for the 2016 contest and now finds himself ranked 129th in the World.
Andy Sullivan of England in action during first day of Portugal Masters 2018 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on September 20, 2018 in Vilamoura, Portugal. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
The Englishman is also without a win since 2015 and he finished the Ryder Cup qualifying campaign ranked a disappointing 29th and 36th on the European and World Points list respectively.
Like Pieters, Cabrera-Bello put up a fight in Minnesota – the Spaniard in fact was the only European to leave Hazeltine with an unbeaten record to his name after 2 wins and draw from 3 matches. Cabrera-Bello’s good form has continued way after the Ryder Cup though, as best demonstrated by his current world ranking of 19, his season finishing FedEx Cup rank of 41 and his European Tour Race to Dubai position of 10.
Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain plays his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club on September 7, 2018 in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Cabrera-Bello finished just outside of the automatic qualification spots for this year’s Ryder Cup and when considering his final ranking of 10th on the World and 12th on the European points list, he is perhaps the most surprising exclusion from Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup team.
The final player on this list is the 6 foot 6 inch tall Chris Wood, a player who had a fairly pleasing Ryder Cup debut. The Englishman only played in 2 matches and acquitted himself well, winning 1 and losing 1.
However, since the 2016 edition of the contest, Wood has endured some tough times on the Golf Course and has consequently seen his World Ranking slip to 77, a 38 place drop from his 2016 year ending rank of 39.
Chris Wood of England during first day of Portugal Masters 2018 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on September 20, 2018 in Vilamoura, Portugal. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Wood finished 22nd and 29th on the world and European points list but the Bristol-born man recently finished 2nd at the European Tours KLM Open, perhaps a sign that he could be a resurgent force.
Despite what may occur for Europe’s rookies at Paris National, it will be interesting to see whether any of them can better the form of the rookies of Ryder Cup past.
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