The Ryder Cup years have a special aroma in the world of golf. Every two years, the tournament that pits North Americans against Europeans becomes the main protagonist of the calendar and from very early on people start talking about the event.
It already happens in this 2023. The appointment of the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy, is still far away (September 29 to October 1), but in ‘Ryder year’ everything counts until the big moment, both to speculate as to measure how both teams arrive.
Jon Rahm, results
The historic result of the last Ryder Cup (19-9 favorable to the USA at Whistling Straits) set off all the alarm bells in Europe, thirsty for golfers capable of competing against the all-powerful Americans.
And it is that, in this start of 2023, only Jon Rahm is saving European pride on the PGA Tour, cradle of golf stars. The Spaniard has already lifted three titles (Tournament of Champions, American Express and Genesis Invitational) in a superlative run with which he confirms himself as the great asset of Europe facing the Ryder of Italy.
In these first tournaments of the year, Rahm is the only European capable of standing up to the Americans, who have several players in top form. Jon has three victories, a third place and a seventh place in five events played on the PGA Tour, where the rest of the great golfers of the old continent are having a hard time starting.
Rory McIlroy, the other great star of Europe, has not passed 29th position in the two tournaments on the North American circuit in which he has competed and lost his status as number one in the world ranking. Of course, the Northern Irishman took the title in January at the Dubai Desert Classic of the DP World Tour and won the CJ Cup, of the current season of the PGA Tour although it was held in 2022.
Nor have they finished starting the two European pearls that must take a step forward in the next Ryder. Matt Fitzpatrick, winner of the last US Open, has not made two cuts and only in the Tournament of Champions did he sneak into the top-10 (seventh, six shots behind Rahm).
In fact, Fitzpatrick is a long way from being among the three players ranked by world points (12th march), so he will have to be invited by captain Luke Donald. Viktor Hovland, for his part, has not gotten into a fight for victory in the four PGA Tour events he has entered this year, although he did win December’s Hero World Challenge (non-scoring) and, after Rahm and McIlroy, is leader in the world points classification.
The Irish Seamus Power and Shane Lowry, also at the moment, have not added any top-10 between them in this 2023, while the Frenchman Victor Perez won the Abu Dhabi event. Justin Rose, who won at Pebble Beach, is the only European who has been able to join Rahm this year as victors on the PGA Tour.
The American side lives a very different moment, which will even have problems selecting the final 12 representatives. Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa have already won one each (the Californian came close to victory in the Genesis and has scored another so far this season) and head a provisional list of qualifiers that also includes Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas, Colin Morikawa and Cameron Young.
Others like Keegan Bradley, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay or Sam Burns are very close to sneaking in. An arsenal of talent. Last Genesis evidenced the current situation: Rahm won, but the top-10 was filled with North Americans (Homa, Cantlay, Zalatoris, Mitchell, Theegala, Morikawa, Kuchar and Woodland).
Only against the United States. This Ryder, in addition, will have the significant casualties of the LIV Golf players, harmful for both sides. Europe will lose historical figures such as Sergio García, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey or Henrik Stenson himself, who was going to be captain, as well as others with options to attend such as Thomas Pieters.
The United States, although it has luxury replacements, will miss the presence of names like Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed or Dustin Johnson. There is still more than half a year left for the Rome event, but the Ryder Cup is already hovering over the world of golf and, for now, it’s Jon Rahm against everyone.
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