The Europeans took the 2018 Ryder Cup title, of which they were considerable underdogs. It will be even tougher for them to grind out a victory this year, with the Ryder Cup being on American soil with Whistling Straits in Wisconsin hosting.

This year pits two Ryder Cup rookie captains against each other: Steve Stricker of America and Padraig Harrington for Europe.

Do the Europeans have enough going to keep the Cup in their hands?

We discuss all that in the following:

Team Europe

Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm 2021 Ryder Cup
Jon Rahm of Team Europe (L) and Captain Padraig Harrington meet prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Andrew Redington via Getty Images)

The best player in the world right now is the Spanish phenom Rahm, who tops the OWGR and had 15 top 10s – six more than anyone else – on the season.

The 26-year-old won the U.S. Open in June, and among his last seven starts, the only time he didn’t card a top 10 was at The Memorial Tournament, where a positive COVID test forced him to withdraw with a six-stroke lead through three rounds.

Rahm led the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, and strokes gained: total, in addition to leading in birdie average and scoring average, and ranking second in greens in regulation.

Despite being a Ryder Cup rookie in 2018, he was given the unenviable task of taking on Tiger Woods in Sunday singles. Rahm won 2&1.

World Rank: 1st
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 1st (E)
Ryder Cup Record: 1-2-0
Ryder Cups: 1 (2018)


Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood (L) and Jon Rahm on the 16th hole during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images)

The 30-year-old Brit finished second in the European Team Rankings, but has not been tremendous in 2021, posting no wins and just two top-10s apiece on both the PGA and European Tours.

However, Fleetwood’s high PGA Tour finish was a T5 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, taking eventual winner Billy Horschel to 19 holes in the quarterfinals. That should give him some confidence in this format.

Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were an absolute revelation together at the 2018 Ryder Cup, finishing (4-0-0) as partners. However, Molinari did make this year’s team and Fleetwood got obliterated 6&4 by Tony Finau in Sunday Singles that same year.

Was Molinari carrying him? Is there a similarly good teammate for him this year?

World Rank: 37th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 2nd (E)
Ryder Cup Record: 4-1-0
Ryder Cups: 1 (2018)


Tyrrell Hatton

Tyrrell Hatton 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Tommy Fleetwood (L) and Tyrrell Hatton during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images)

Hatton is immensely talented, but was one of the bigger disappointments this year among European Tour players this season, playing mostly awful in the majors and dropping well out of the top 10 in the OWGR.

His form has arguably gotten worse as of late, with four missed cuts in his last six starts worldwide.

Among the final seven matches out at the 2018 Ryder Cup, Hatton was the only one to lose, falling 3&2 to Captain America Patrick Reed. His tee-to-green game is phenomenal at times, but he plays with his heart on his sleeve, which can be either a good or bad thing, depending on how the rest of his team is doing at the time.

World Rank: 19th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 3rd (E)
Ryder Cup Record: 1-2-0
Ryder Cups: 1 (2018)


Bernd Wiesberger

Bernd Wiesberger 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Bernd Wiesberger (R) and Matthew Fitzpatrick during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images)

Who? The Austrian finished very highly in the European rankings, but over the course of 2021 has fallen from 40th to 63rd in the OWGR, 42 spots behind the lowest-ranked American in the field.

Wiesberger has played well recently, though, winning a European Tour event in late May by five strokes, and also finishing runner-up at the Omega European Masters a month ago.

The 35-year-old has been ghastly on American soil and PGA Tour events as a whole, with just two top-25s in 65 career Tour starts, and one of those happened in China.

Do not write him off. Don’t expect the Americans to be intimidated by him either.

World Rank: 63rd
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 4th (E)
Ryder Cup Record: 0-0-0
Ryder Cups: Rookie


Matt Fitzpatrick

Matt Fitzpatrick 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Ian Poulter (L) and Matt Fitzpatrick during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images)

The 27-year-old from England went on a mid-season tear on the PGA Tour, finishing T11 or better in five of six stroke-play events. However, Fitzpatrick’s play has dropped off since, with just one result in the top 50 in his last four Tour starts.

Fitzpatrick also does not have a sparkling history at the Ryder Cup, finishing 0-2-0 at the 2016 edition in the U.S. and did not qualify for the 2018 event in France.

Still, he is an accurate driver and excellent putter, which makes him a good fit with pretty much anyone on the European side. He also claims to have matured significantly in his career since his disappointing showing at the 2016 Ryder Cup.

World Rank: 27th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 5th (E)
Ryder Cup Record: 0-2-0
Ryder Cups: 1 (2016)


Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy 2021 Ryder Cup
Rory McIlroy of Team Europe (L) and Team USA’s Vice-captain Fred Couples on the 15th green prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Warren Little via Getty Images)

He has four major titles and an absurd amount of wins worldwide, yet you never really know what you’re going to get from Rory McIlroy in this format.

The 19-time PGA Tour winner has fallen from fourth to 15th in the OWGR, and looked broken in stretches, although he did win the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year.

Rory led the Tour in birdie average, and his No. 2 ranking in driving distance makes him a good fit at Whistling Straits.

The Northern Irishman was just one of three players depended on to play five times for the Euros in the 2018 Ryder Cup, finishing 2-3-0. He was 3-2-0 two years earlier.

World Rank: 15th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 1st (W)
Ryder Cup Record: 11-9-4
Ryder Cups: 5 (2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010)


Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland 2021 Ryder Cup
Viktor Hovland of Team Europe speaks to the media prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann via Getty Images)

This figures to be the first of many Ryder Cup appearances for the 24-year-old Norwiegan, who had a win and two runner-ups on the PGA Tour this year, in addition to a win at the European Tour’s BMW International Open in late June.

Hovland ranked 15th or better in four of the six strokes gained categories this past season on the PGA Tour.

It’s difficult to see the guy who broke Jack Nicklaus’ amateur scoring record at the U.S. Open being intimidated at the Ryder Cup. He also won the 2018 U.S. Amateur, a match play event, in a whopping 6&5 rout over Devon Bling, one of the coolest names in golf.

World Rank: 14th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 2nd (W)
Ryder Cup Record: 0-0-0
Ryder Cups: Rookie


Paul Casey

Paul Casey 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Ian Poulter (L) and Paul Casey on the 17th green prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Warren Little via Getty Images)

Another highly-experienced member of the European Team, the 44-year-old Casey has looked especially motivated in his quest to snag a major championship, with five finishes inside the top 20 in his last seven major starts, including a runner-up finish at the 2020 PGA Championship.

Casey had a rough FedExCup playoff, but had been phenomenal in the events leading into it, with seven top 10s in the calendar year. He also won the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic by four strokes in January.

Casey went 1-1-1 for the winning European side at the 2018 Ryder Cup, halving his Sunday match with Brooks Koepka.

World Rank: 15th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 3rd (W)
Ryder Cup Record: 4-3-5
Ryder Cups: 4 (2018, 2008, 2006, 2004)


Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Lee Westwood (L) and Sergio Garcia during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images)

The 48-year-old has already played in 10 Ryder Cups, giving him just two fewer years of experience than the entire American team combined. He has done very well too, with 20 wins and six ties in 44 career matches.

More recently, though? He did not make the 2018 European team and went 0-3-0 in the 2016 cup for the losing side.

Westwood made most of his damage in the early 2000’s tying Sergio Garcia for the most European points scored at both the 2004 and 2006 editions.

The oldest player in the field by three years, the man with 12 top-5s in majors without a win, has struggled since back-to-back runner-up finishes in March at THE PLAYERS Championship and the Arnold Palmer Championship.

World Rank: 35th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: 4th (W)
Ryder Cup Record: 20-18-6
Ryder Cups: 10 (2016, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 1999, 1997)


Shane Lowry

Shane Lowry 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Shane Lowry (L) and Jan Rahm during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote via Getty Images)

Lowry might be a Ryder Cup rookie, but the 34-year-old from Ireland is nothing resembling inexperienced on the big stage, twice grabbing the 54-hole lead in a major, and winning the 2019 Open Championship by six strokes.

Lowry also finished T21 or better in three of the last four majors, and added several other strong finishes in more prominent events, with a T6 at The Memorial, and a solo-eighth at the PGA Championship.

It also helps that Lowry is one of the more jovial personalities in golf, and is very likely to fit like a glove on the European Team. If anything, he represents them perfectly.

World Rank: 42nd
Ryder Cup Qualifying: Pick
Ryder Cup Record: 0-0-0
Ryder Cups: Rookie


Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia 2021 Ryder Cup
Team Europe’s Rory McIlroy (L) and Sergio Garcia (C) with Team USA’s vice-captain Fred Couples (R) during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Warren Little via Getty Images)

Sergio’s 22 wins at the Ryder Cup is the event record, and coming off a very solid season, it would have been near impossible for Padraig Harrington to not select him for the team.

Garcia was 3-1-0 at the 2018 Ryder Cup, winning a Sunday singles match over Rickie Fowler.

The 41-year-old Spaniard arrives in good form, with seven finishes of 26th or better in his last seven starts. His experience makes him incredibly valuable, and he has shown the ability to mesh with pretty much any teammate he is trusted with.

Even in his 40s, Sergio finished the season third on Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee.

World Rank: 43rd
Ryder Cup Qualifying: Pick
Ryder Cup Record: 22-12-7
Ryder Cups: 9 (2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 1999)


Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter 2021 Ryder Cup
Ian Poulter of Team Europe lines up a shot on the 12th tee prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Warren Little via Getty Images)

At 45 years of age, it seems unlikely that Poulter is ever going to grab that first major championship, but it cannot be debated that he has been an absolute Ryder Cup legend.

In three Ryder Cups, Poulter has been the leading point-getter for the Europeans, and most recently knocked off Dustin Johnson in Sunday singles at the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Padraig Harrington really had no choice, but to select him for the team. Even if his best is behind him, Poutler had a fine season on the PGA tour, making 17 of 21 cuts. He was third on Tour in strokes gained: putting and eighth in strokes gained: around-the-green.

World Rank: 50th
Ryder Cup Qualifying: Pick
Ryder Cup Record: 14-6-2
Ryder Cups: 6 (2018, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2004)


Captain: Padraig Harrington
Vice-Captains: Robert Karlsson, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson


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