Rookies ready for Ryder Cup debut
Ask any player and they’ll tell you that the first tee at the Ryder Cup is a scene that’s impossible to replicate. The buzzing of the fans, the sweat building on your palms, the magnitude of the moment pushing your stomach into your throat. It comes but once every two years (or, in this case, three) and it’s an emotional unicorn in a sport so often focused on individual successes and failures.
This week it’s about the Team, as nine new participants are about to find out. Here’s a look at the rookie crop at Whistling Straits – a whopping six from the U.S. side and three from Europe – and how they might cope with a stage, and a week, unlike any other in golf.
The pandemic delay has bolstered the credentials of many first-timers this week, none more so than Morikawa who won two major titles before hitting a shot in the Ryder Cup. The 2020 PGA Champion is the youngest player on the U.S. roster at age 24, but he’s certainly not inexperienced when it comes to handling pressure. Ranked No. 3 in the world, he won’t have any trouble finding a prospective partner over the first two days of competition.
Golf’s new $15 million man. Cantlay steamrolled the competition earlier this month in the PGA Tour’s postseason, including a win at the BMW Championship that earned him the sixth and final automatic spot on the U.S. Team in the final event of Ryder Cup qualification. Cantlay tends to be somewhat quiet and reserved, but his game has done plenty of talking over the last month and he acquitted himself well during the 2019 Presidents Cup.
Another player with an impressive track record before making his debut. Schauffele has six top-10 finishes in majors since the last Ryder Cup, including a T-10 result at the 2020 PGA Championship, and this summer he added an Olympic gold medal to his collection. Schauffele is ranked No. 5 in the world and will bring to the team room a demeanor equal parts laid back and locked in.
Berger does have some experience donning the red, white and blue, having played in the 2017 Presidents Cup. He’ll get a chance to do so in a Ryder Cup setting this week after a season that was highlighted by a win at Pebble Beach and top-10s in each of the last two majors. When the 2018 Ryder Cup was played, Berger was sidelined with an injury and nearly outside the top 50 in the world. This time around he’s ranked 16th and a clear asset for U.S. Captain Steve Stricker.
English picked a good time to have a career year. Ending a seven-year victory drought in January, he added another win over the summer and now becomes a Ryder Cup rookie at age 32. English has not represented the U.S. previously as a professional, but his stellar ball-striking in recent months left little doubt about his inclusion on this year’s 12-man roster.
Like English, he’s representing the U.S. for the first time in his pro career this week – but at No. 21 in the world he was hardly a longshot to land a spot on the squad. Scheffler dazzled last year as a PGA Tour rookie, shooting a 59 during a playoff event, and his strength in match play dates back to his junior and collegiate days. It also includes an impressive showing earlier this year, when he rolled through the bracket en route to a runner-up finish at the WGC Match Play event in his native Texas.
Along with Morikawa, Lowry is one of two players making a Ryder Cup debut this week after winning a major title. His breakthrough came two summers ago at Royal Portrush, but he played well enough in the intervening two years to earn a pick from his fellow Irishman. Lowry narrowly missed out on a spot on Team Europe in 2016, but his T-4 finish at this year’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island sparked a run of form that ensured he wouldn’t be left out again.
Hovland becomes the first Norwegian to ever play in a Ryder Cup, and at No. 14 in the world he’s actually the second highest-ranked member of Team Europe behind world No. 1 Jon Rahm. Hovland made the most of the pandemic delay, winning on both the PGA Tour and European Tour over the last year, and has all the makings of a player who could become a troublesome competitor for Americans for years to come.
The big Austrian crashed the party at the 11th hour, securing his (and his country’s) first Ryder Cup bid with a T-20 finish in the final event of European qualification. A couple weeks shy of his 36th birthday, he’s the oldest rookie on either side this week and older than every player on the American roster except for 37-year-old Dustin Johnson.