Europe has dominated the Ryder Cup during the last two decades, winning three in a row and 8 of 10. Rookies have played a key role in the team’s success and captain Darren Clarke will lean on them again this weekend at Hazeltine.
Half of the European team (6 of the 12 team members) is playing in its first Ryder Cup. But it’s not as if they lack experience. They’ve combined for 18 European Tour wins, including Danny Willett’s victory at the Masters in April and Chris Wood’s victory at the BMW International in May.
Clarke may rely on veterans to carry Europe through the fourballs and foursomes on Friday and Saturday. Yet, he’ll need the rookies to contribute. Here are three rookies to watch at Hazeltine.
The 2013 U.S. Amateur champion is only 22 years old, but he already has two wins on the European Tour, including an impressive performance at the Nordea Classic in June.
Fitzpatrick, the former No. 1 ranked amateur in the world, arrives to Minnesota on a hot streak, hoping to follow the path of Jose Maria Olazabal (1987), Henrik Stenson (2006) and Justin Rose (2008) and push Europe toward victory in his Ryder Cup debut.
Fitzpatrick is 10th on the European Tour in greens in regulation, which could make him a viable foursomes partner. He also tied for seventh in the Masters in April.
The 25-year-old Belgian played college golf at Illinois and comes to Hazeltine riding a hot streak.
He finished fourth in the Olympics, second in the Czech Masters and won the Made in Denmark on Aug. 28th, shooting 65 in the final round to finish 17-under. In his last four starts, he’s 45 under.
Ranked 42nd in the Official World Golf Ranking, Pieters is a powerful driver (16th in driving distance) with a game suited for Hazeltine, according to Miller.
He has four top-three finishes on the European Tour this season and three career victories. But he’ll need a hot week with the putter (he’s 92nd in putts per green in regulation on the European Tour).
The Englishman won the Masters when Jordan Spieth faltered on the back nine and also defeated a strong field at the Dubai Desert Classic.
He leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and there aren’t many holes in his game. Willett is 19th on the Tour in greens in regulation, 15th in putts per green in regulation and 13th in sand saves.
He also won two of three points in the Eurasia Cup earlier this year.
Just 28 years old, Willett is expected to help Europe offset the absence of Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.