The Ryder Cup returns to European shores later this month, and it goes without saying that the United States do not have a good record on courses this side of the Atlantic. You have to go back 30 years to unearth Team USA’s last victory in Europe, with Tom Watson inspiring the visitors to a 15-13 win at The Belfry in Warwickshire. 

That all looks set to change this year, however. Zach Johnson’s side are the overwhelming favourites in the Ryder Cup betting  for the upcoming 44th renewal of the competition at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Guidonia Montecelio on the outskirts of Rome between September 30 and October 2. 

There is a concerning gulf in class between the two sides on paper, especially when you compare Luke Donald’s and Johnson’s captain’s picks. Team USA’s selections Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas boast 12 major titles between them and a wealth of Ryder Cup experience (aside from Burns who is making his debut).

In contrast, Donald’s selections have combined for just two majors, and half of them are set to make their maiden Ryder Cup appearances. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at Team Europe’s captain’s picks. 

Justin Rose

One of the most seasoned players on Team Europe, Justin Rose will be making his sixth Ryder Cup appearance in Rome. The 42-year-old US Open winner was dropped by Padraig Harrington for the Whistling Straits renewal two years ago, but Donald clearly thinks his experience will be key and Rose has a fine record of 13 wins, two ties and eight defeats in 23 Ryder Cup matches. 

Shane Lowry

The only other captain pick with a major title, Shane Lowry won The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019. However, his selection hasn’t gone down well with some as the 36-year-old has recorded just one top-10 finish all season when tied for fifth at the Honda Classic in February. Lowry will be making his second appearance in the competition after going 1-2-0 at Whistling Straits last time out.

Tommy Fleetwood

The last of the captain’s picks with prior experience at the Ryder Cup, Tommy Fleetwood had a tournament to remember when he made his debut at Le Mans in 2018 — boasting a record of 4-1-0. He wasn’t used as regularly by Harrington last time but held his own with two ties and one defeat in three matches — including a shared point in the singles against three-time major winner Spieth. 

Sepp Straka

Set to make his maiden Ryder Cup appearance at the age of 30, Sepp Straka has had a solid enough year on the Tour — recording five top-10 finishes and making 20 cuts in the 28 events he has participated in. Those top 10s include the Austrian winning the John Deere Classic in July and being tied for second at The Open, while he was also T7 at the PGA Championship. One to watch.

Ludvig Aberg

One of two players who could make their breakthrough on Team Europe at this year’s Ryder Cup, Ludvig Aberg only turned professional earlier this year. The former World No.1 amateur has played in seven PGA Tour events, recording one top-10 finish when T4 at the John Deere Classic, while he’s finished in the top 25 four times and missed just one cut. The 23-year-old Swede also has a European Tour victory to his name, winning the Omega European Masters on home soil earlier this month. 

Nicolai Hojgaard

The other rising star on Team Europe is Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard. The 22-year-old has two European Tour successes on his CV and was granted Special Temporary Membership by the PGA Tour earlier this season, which has resulted in him playing 12 events on the prestigious tour. Hojgaard was second on his first appearance in the Corales Puntacana Championship and has one other top-10 finish when T6 at the Scottish Open, while he also made his PGA (T50) and Open (23) debuts.