The men making history for their countries
When Bernd Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland stand on the tee for the first time at Whistling Straits, it will be as history makers for their respective nations.
Both men, who automatically qualified for Team Europe, will be the first players from their countries to compete in a Ryder Cup: Hovland for Norway, and Wiesberger for Austria.
Until this year’s Ryder Cup, there had been 12 different European nations represented by golfers in the Ryder Cup. Leading the way in number of appearances since the 1979 Ryder Cup is England (80), followed by Spain (42), Scotland (35), Northern Ireland (17) and Ireland (16). Following them are Germany (14), Wales (10), Italy (7), Denmark (5), France (3) and Belgium (2) – which is made up of Nicolas Colsaerts, who represented Europe in 2012, and Thomas Pieters, who was part of the 2016 team.
With the addition of Norway and Austria’s first appearances through Hovland and Wiesberger, the total list of European nations moves up to 14.
Here’s a closer look at how they qualified.
When the last Ryder Cup was taking place at Le Golf National, Wiesberger was out with an injury and doing commentary for SKY Germany.
Inspired by Team Europe’s display in France, Wiesberger returned from injury in 2019 and finished a career-high third on the Race to Dubai Rankings in partnership with Rolex after securing three victories that season – and he carried that momentum into the qualification period for the Ryder Cup Team.
A win at Made in HimmerLand this season on the European Tour helped secure his debut via the European Points List, ultimately claiming the final automatic spot with a tie for 20th at the final week of qualifying at the BMW PGA Championship. On top of his victory in Austria, Wiesberger had three further top six finishes, including a runner-ufinish at the Omega European Masters. He is no stranger to pressure, having picked up eight victories on the European Tour including two Rolex Series events in the same year at the 2019 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and the Italian Open.
“It's a big relief and it's an unbelievable to be part of the European Team,” Wiesberger said later.
“In 2018 in France, I was doing SKY Germany because I had an operation on my arm and it inspired me a lot to be part of this team.
“I'm really looking forward to be of as much help as I can be on that team. I will put my heart and my soul into that team and deliver in every way possible. (I’m) very proud to be one of Paddy's 12.”
And while this will be Wiesberger’s first Ryder Cup, it will not be his first time representing Europe in team competition. Before being sidelined with an injury, Wiesberger was part of the winning 2018 EurAsia Cup team, which featured many of this year’s Ryder Cup stars including Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey. Two years before that, Wiesberger played alongside Shane Lowry, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter in the 2016 edition of the EurAsia Cup, also won by Europe. That year, Wiesberger partnered Poulter during the foursomes, and the pair won 4&3 over Anirban Lahiri and Jeung Hun Wang. Wiesberger was also part of the winning Royal Trophy team in 2013.
After qualifying for his first Ryder Cup via the World Points list, Viktor Hovland described the feeling of becoming the first Norwegian to represent Europe as a ‘dream come true’. when he makes his Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits.
“Yeah, it's a dream come true and it's going to be really, really cool,” he said.
The 23-year-old is no stranger to setting Norwegian records, and has had a sharp rise to fame after turning professional. He became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA TOUR after his victory at the Puerto Rico Open in February 2020 and added a second victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in December.
Fast forward a year and he became the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour after his triumph at the BMW International Open in June. As well as his victory in Germany this year, Hovland has recorded a further seven top six finishes to more than justify his place in Harrington’s team.
The youngster also has an impressive amateur matchplay record, going undefeated at the 2015 Jacques Leglise Trophy, as well as becoming the first Norwegian to win the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship. He then earned low amateur honours at the Masters and U.S. Open, finishing T32 at Augusta National and in an impressive share of 12th at Pebble Beach.
“Obviously Ryder Cup is a big thing, and Norway doesn't have a very long-standing tradition in the event,” said Hovland.
“So for me personally, it's going to be a huge honour to wave the Norwegian flag alongside the European flag.
“It's going to be a cool experience. I talked to Robert Karlsson actually last night and we were talking about basically the same thing, and how many Swedes have played in The Ryder Cup and he's lifting names I haven't even heard of, which is pretty impressive. So it's about time that us Norwegians kind of try to keep up.”