Golf Monthly staff writer Nick Bonfield ranks the European Ryder Cup team from 1-12 ahead of the showdown at Gleneagles
The 2014 European Ryder Cup team has – rightfully in my opinion – been labeled as the strongest ever by a number of past players, journalists and golf fans.
And with good reason. It contains four of the world’s top six players, huge experience, exciting rookies, established pairings and, perhaps most importantly, momentum.
Throw in a pragmatic, meticulous captain, course knowledge and vociferous home support and we’ve established why Europe are such convincing favourites.
But who are we expecting to make the biggest impact? Below, I’ve ranked the team from 1-12, based on form, experience, skill sets, versatility and other factors.
European Ryder Cup rankings:
1 – Ian Poulter
What qualification is needed here? He’s a Ryder Cup maestro who’s already achieved legendary status in golf’s biggest event. His 12/15 points record is the best, by some margin, in the modern era.
2- Rory McIlroy
The world number one is an ideal partner in both foursomes and fourballs. He delivered en debut at Medinah, he’s the form player on the European side and a someone nobody will want to come up against.
3 – Justin Rose
Justin Rose has a game that’s perfectly suited to Gleneagles, plus he’s almost certain to rekindle his successful partnership with Poulter. His 66% win percentage is very strong, he should play in every session and he’s never lost in the singles.
4 – Sergio Garcia
Garcia is another player with an exemplary Ryder Cup record. He’s the second-most experienced player in the European side, he’s a versatile and reliable partner and his determination to succeed has seemingly strengthened.
5 – Martin Kaymer
Kaymer has a perfect Ryder Cup temperament and he’s likely to be paired with one of the European side’s elite players, quite possibly McIlroy. He a big-game player with a solid Ryder Cup record coming off another impressive season.
6 – Henrik Stenson
The world number three hasn’t played a Ryder Cup since 2008, so he’ll be desperate to make an impression on his return. He’s a man with the potential to make a lot of birdies – making him an ideal fourball partner – and his driving accuracy is much better than he’s given credit for.
7 – Lee Westwood
Westwood isn’t in the best form, but he’s the most experienced player in the European side. He can be used to guide a rookie or alongside the likes of Garcia, who he’s enjoyed success with in the past. He’s delivered 21 points in the Ryder Cup over the years – an average of three per contest.
8 – Victor Dubuisson
The taciturn and mysterious Frenchman could be one of the surprise packages this week. He’s a class act with a brilliant short game and the capacity to make a host of birdies. He excelled en debut at the WGC-Accenture and enjoyed a hugely successful matchplay record as the world’s number one amateur.
9 – Graeme McDowell
McDowell hasn’t played much golf over the last month or so – a product of the birth of his first child – but he’s a tenacious competition who revels in the head-to-head atmosphere of the Ryder Cup.
10 – Stephen Gallacher
Rookie Gallacher will evoke the partisan nature of the Scottish crowd – a tool that could be invaluable this week. He’s coming into the Ryder Cup off the back of his best-ever season and should thrive on vocal home support.
11 – Jamie Donaldson
Jamie Donaldson has transformed himself into one of the most consistent performers on the European Tour. He’s strong in all areas, he’s in good form and he looks a strong partner to Westwood or McDowell.
12 – Thomas Bjorn
The imposing Dane hasn’t played in the Ryder Cup for 12 years and admitted earlier this week that making the side was one of his greatest career achievements. Given the strength of the side I’m not sure how much he’ll play, but I expect him to rise to the occasion when he does.
It remains to be see how McGinely will use his considerable assets, with the Rose/Poulter partnership the only one seemingly set in stone.
But what’s for sure is that Europe has a side that looks extremely strong in all areas, and one that could pull away should the first two sessions go in its favour.
Friday is a huge day for the Americans, but don’t expect them to be pushover. Far from it.