“I’ve come to the conclusion that the Ryder Cup is like New York - it never sleeps.” Former European Tour player and Sky Sports golf analyst Ewen Murray gave that quote at the 2016 Ryder Cup held at Hazeltine, and it feels emblematic of our look ahead to the next playing of this event in late September.
Every two years, the 12 best American and European players go head-to-head for the right to claim the Ryder Cup. The 2023 edition will be the 44th in the decorated history of the event, which dates back to 1927, and the European team is hosting at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome.
The US has won 27 times compared to 14 victories for the Europeans, though Europe has claimed seven of the last ten trophies dating back to their 2002 victory at the Belfry.
Coincidentally, the last time the United States won on European soil occurred at the Belfry during the 1993 Ryder Cup. Since 1985, it represents the only time Europe has failed to win or retain the Cup when hosting the event.
The story has been better for the Americans when playing on home turf. Their 19-9 triumph at Whistling Straits in 2021 signified the largest margin of victory in the current format of the Ryder Cup, which started in 1979.
The United States jumped out to a lead in the first session and held an 11-5 advantage going into the Sunday singles portion.
The Americans continued to pressure the European team Sunday, winning three of the four early matches with multiple holes remaining to put themselves on the brink of victory. Only Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood won matches that day for Europe as the US made history.
Nine of the 12 American players finished with winning records in this edition, led by Dustin Johnson’s perfect 5-0 mark. Only Jon Rahm and Garcia accomplished that feat for Europe; the Spaniards went 3-0 together in the team matches before falling in singles.
The United States builds a team by taking the top six players who’ve accumulated the most points in PGA Tour, Major, and other events during the qualifying period and adding six players selected by the team's captain.
Two-time Major champion Zach Johnson is the 2023 captain after acting as vice-captain in 2018 and 2021. According to a BBC piece, Johnson referred to the captaincy as “the greatest honor of my professional career.”
The two players who were locked into spots on the team are world #1 Scottie Scheffler and 2023 US Open Champ Wyndham Clark. The remaining players currently holding qualifying places in the American rankings are Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, and Max Homa.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both made the team as Captain's Picks this year. Spieth has played on the team since 2014, winning twice in 2016 and 2021, and is 8-7-3 overall. Thomas first qualified in 2018, also played on the winning team at Whistling Straits, and boasts a 6-2-1 record in two appearances.
Rickie Fowler captured his first PGA Tour win in four years with a victory in Detroit and was another Captain's selection by Johnson. According to DataGolf, Fowler has gained the sixth-most shots per round globally over the last three months.
Johnson also added Sam Burns, Brooks Koepka, and Collin Morikawa. All three of these players have the right pedigree and mindset to help Team USA in this year's Ryder Cup.
Qualifying for the European team works slightly differently, given the diverse landscape of professional competition that players from Europe pursue. There are still six places up for automatic qualifying based on tournament results, with three determined by the top players on the European Points List, while the other automatic bids go to the top three players on the World Points List.
Captain Luke Donald then selects six players for the team based on his interpretation of their recent performance, fit for the course, and likelihood of success in a team-based match play format.
Two players who didn't need to wait for Donald’s call are McIlroy and Rahm. The numbers two and three players in the world, respectively, lead the race for the six qualifying places and would have been on the team regardless. Matt Fitzpatrick was also an automatic pick for Team Europe.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre holds the third spot in the European team rankings after his solo second-place finish at his home open. MacIntyre won the 2022 Italian Open, played at Marco Simone, something worth noting if he slips out of the standings and Donald needs to decide his fate.
As far as Captain's Picks go, team Europe added Ludvig Aberg, Tommy Fleetwood, Nicolai Hojgaard, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose, and Sepp Straka. Needless to say, that's a pretty solid group.
The recent history of the US team playing in Europe underlies this entire argument. After a stunning, convincing victory on home soil in 2021, it’s unclear whether that will translate to Italy in 2023. The Euros have effectively set courses to suit their players in the past, like putting a premium on accuracy instead of distance.
The second prong of this handicap is the play of the American hopefuls beyond the top six qualifiers. Spieth, Thomas, Morikawa, and Young have all struggled this season.
While the first three will still be on the team barring anything significant between now and decision time, Young might have cost himself a place on this team with a disappointing year. Johnson will have difficulty deciding who claims the final 1-2 spots on the team.
Third, we’ll give the Europeans some credit. Rahm has had poor results this season but won the Masters in April and was a stalwart for the team in 2021. McIlroy is playing some of the best golf of his life.
Fleetwood finished T5 at the US Open and T6 at the Scottish before firing the best round of his career in a Major during the first round of the Open Championship.
Hovland has had an incredible season, punctuated by a victory at the Memorial and top-ten results at the Masters and PGA Championship. For these reasons, we like the value of Team Europe to win the 2023 Ryder Cup.