With six players set to make their Ryder Cup bows for Europe at Hazeltine National come the end of the month, RyderCup.com has trawled back through the archives to highlight 12 memorable rookie moments from over the years.
After Darren Clarke named Thomas Pieters as one of his three wildcard picks, Team Europe will now feature the highest rookie contingent for an away Ryder Cup match of any side since 1999, as the Belgian will be joined in Minnesota by fellow debutants Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Chris Wood.
But inexperience hasn’t always proved an impediment to an instant impact in the biennial clash – as the following performances exhibit…
1977: Sir Nick Faldo
The man who would go on to become the most successful player in Ryder Cup history began his career in the transatlantic contest in fine style. Aged just 20 years and 59 days, Nick Faldo became the then-youngest player to compete in The Ryder Cup but made light of his tender years to register three points from as many matches. Most impressively, he defeated the reigning Masters and Open Champion Tom Watson one up in the singles.
1987: José María Olazábal
José María Olazábal made his Ryder cup debut as part of the first European team to triumph on American soil. Muirfield Village in Ohio would prove the birthplace of one of the greatest Ryder Cup partnerships in history, as Olazábal was paired with compatriot Seve Ballesteros for the first time, winning three points from four matches together that year. They would go on to play a total of 15 times together, winning 12 points in the process.
1995: Philip Walton
Trailing by two points heading into the Sunday singles, the 1995 contest came down to Irish rookie Philip Walton, who delivered the crucial winning point by defeating Jay Haas one up, receiving an enormous bear-hug from three-time captain Bernard Gallacher as his reward.
1999: Sergio Garcia
At the turn of the century, a 19 year old Sergio Garcia became – and still remains – the youngest player in Ryder Cup history in the hostile atmosphere of Brookline, Boston. An exuberant Garcia played all five sessions, fist-pumping, bounding and high-fiving his way to 3½ points alongside Sweden’s Jesper Parnevik, with the Spaniard’s only defeat coming to Jim Furyk in the singles turnaround on Sunday.
1999: Paul Lawrie
The same year, fellow rookie Paul Lawrie was handed one of the most daunting tasks in golf – hitting the nerve-wracking first tee shot at The Ryder Cup. Alongside Colin Montgomerie in the opening foursomes, the Open Champion of the same year put aside some incredible pressure to rifle his drive straight down the fairway. “When I got on the tee I was as nervous as I’ve ever been,” said Lawrie. “There were thousands around the tee, and then you know there are millions of people watching on the telly. There have been so many shocking shots that I was quite proud of myself. Mickelson missed the fairway by about 50 yards."
2002: Phillip Price
Tied at eight points apiece heading into the singles matches at the Belfry, skipper Sam Torrance elected to send the bulk of his strongest players out early, and it proved an inspired decision as the tide swung in Europe’s favour. One of the highlights that day, though, came from debutant Phillip Price, who defeated Phil Mickelson 3&2 in the singles, provoking one of the great celebrations as the Welshman was pictured almost convulsing in pure delight.
2002: Paul McGinley
A brilliant captain two years ago, Paul McGinley also shone in his Ryder Cup playing debut in 2002, memorably holing a pivotal 12-foot putt across the Belfry’s 18th green to claim a half point against Jim Furyk and, with it, ensure victory for Europe – three years on from that acrimonious defeat at Brookline.
2006: Henrik Stenson
Making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance this year, Henrik Stenson made an immediate impression on the contest in his debut year, beating Vaughn Taylor 4&3 in the Sunday singles and holing the winning putt at The K Club moments after Luke Donald ensured that The Ryder Cup would be retained.
2008: Justin Rose
Justin Rose gained three points from four matches in his Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla eight years ago. Despite Europe’s defeat in Kentucky, Rose’s finish was a bright spark – the Englishman lost just one hole in the Sunday singles to the top-ranked player in the American side, Phil Mickelson, as he won 3&2.
2012: Nicolas Colsaerts
One of the most talked-about rookie performances in recent years, Nicolas Colsaerts found himself up against 14-time Major winner Tiger Woods and veteran Steve Stricker in his maiden Ryder Cup match – a fourball encounter alongside the steadying hand of Lee Westwood. The Belgian banished any first-day jitters immediately, carding eight birdies and an eagle to win on the last hole. A staggered Woods said afterwards: “Nicolas had one of the greatest putting rounds I’ve ever seen.”
2014: Victor Dubuisson
Enigmatic Frenchman Victor Dubuisson went undefeated in his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles two years ago, winning 2½ points from three matches including two foursome wins alongside Graeme McDowell – won by a combined 8 and 6 – and a halved match in the final Sunday singles tie of the 2014 contest against Zach Johnson. “Graeme has been fantastic since we arrived here,” said Dubuisson of the unique camaraderie that the contest continually inspires. “Even in the last few months and of course over the last four days, he’s been really amazing with me. I think it’s very difficult to manage the stress and being nervous right before the tee in your first Ryder Cup, but I really tried to do the best for him.”
2014: Jamie Donaldson
After striking up a strong partnership with Lee Westwood, winning two points from three matches alongside the Englishman, rookie Jamie Donaldson’s defining contribution to the 2014 event will go down in Ryder Cup folklore. In the Sunday singles, Donaldson hit the shot that ensured Europe would retain The Ryder Cup – a 146-yard pitching wedge to a foot at the par four 15th to beat Keegan Bradley 5&3. The Welshman’s moment of genius, which sparked delirious celebrations from European fans and players alike in Scotland, was voted the 2014 European Tour Shot of the Year.