Thomas Bjorn’s Europe head into the Ryder Cup against the United States in Paris next week with five rookies and five major champions as they bid to regain the trophy after the 2016 defeat at Hazeltine.
Team Europe are the underdogs this week at Le Golf National, as they host a USA side that pummelled them 17-11 last time around.
Here, Pundit Arena takes a look at the 12 players bidding to secure a sixth straight home win for Europe in the three-day event which starts on September 28:
Francesco Molinari (ITA)
Age: 35, World ranking: 5, Third Ryder Cup appearance (2010, 2012, 2018), Ryder Cup record (wins, losses, halves): 0-3-2
The Italian has delivered his best year to date in 2018, winning his first major at the British Open and the flagship European Tour event, the BMW PGA Championship. Molinari has played on two previous winning Ryder Cup teams, completing the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ in 2012 by halving with Tiger Woods in the final singles match.
Should play a larger role than he has in previous editions given his prominence this year.
Justin Rose (ENG)
Age: 38, World ranking: 2, Fifth appearance (’08, ’12, ’14, ’16, ’18), Record: 11-6-2
The linchpin of Team Europe.
Rose has been one of the world’s most consistent players in recent years, winning the 2013 US Open at Merion and rising to the world number one ranking earlier this month after finishing second at the BMW Championship. He arrives in Paris as the new FedEx Cup champion.
He has played his part in two Ryder Cup wins, including in 2012 when he staged a thrilling fightback to beat Phil Mickelson in the singles.
Jon Rahm (ESP)
Age: 23, World ranking: 8, First appearance (2018)
The Spaniard has enjoyed a remarkable rise since turning professional only two years ago, winning five titles on the two major tours. Climbed as high as second in the world earlier this year and is now ranked seventh.
Questions remain about his temperament, though his intense nature should suit this event.
Rory McIlroy (NIR)
Age: 29, World ranking: 6, Fifth appearance (’10, ’12, ’14, ’16, ’18), Record: 9-6-4
His showing will go a long way towards determining Europe’s fortunes.
The most successful golfer in the team with four major titles, Europe will need McIlroy at his best to wrestle the trophy back from the visitors. Has shown signs of form this season, but has struggled with the putter, something Bjorn will be hoping changes quickly.
Tyrrell Hatton (ENG)
Age: 26, World ranking: 26, First appearance
The combustible Englishman is a fierce competitor and has made his mark in the US this year. Is yet to win in 2018, but does have six top-10s. A dark horse for Team Europe.
Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)
Age: 27, World ranking: 12, First appearance
Fleetwood has proven himself to be one of the world’s top players in the last 18 months and came up just short at the US Open this year despite a sensational final-round 63. However, one of his two missed cuts this season came at Le Golf National in the French Open as defending champion.
Could feature prominently with a good start.
Alex Noren (SWE)
Age: 36, World ranking: 18, First appearance
A reliable fixture in the world’s top 20 for two years, Noren effectively booked his spot by winning the French Open in July with a stunning closing stretch of holes. The Swede is a 10-time winner on the European Tour and finally gets his first shot at Ryder Cup glory.
Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN)
Age: 28, World ranking: 45, First appearance
Watched the 2016 loss from the buggy of his compatriot and good friend Bjorn, but has finally built on his considerable talent in recent months. He won the Italian Open in June and has managed a further three top-five finishes since.
Capable of contending against anyone on his day, but a poor start might see his playing time be limited.
Sergio Garcia (ESP/wildcard pick)
Age: 38, World ranking: 28, Ninth appearance (’99, ’02, ’04, ’06, ’08, ’12, ’14, ’16, ’18), Record: 19-11-7
The most controversial pick, with the omission of the likes of three-time season winner Matt Wallace waiting to be used as a stick to beat Bjorn with should Europe lose.
One of Europe’s greatest Ryder Cup players, but has struggled for form and needed a wildcard slot to make the team. He has won 22.5 points since becoming the youngest player in Cup history as a teenager in 1999, but has missed seven cuts in his last 12 tournaments. A timely, positive showing at last week’s Portugal Masters bodes well.
Paul Casey (ENG/wildcard pick)
Age: 41, World ranking: 21, Fourth appearance (’04, ’06, ’08, ’18), Record: 3-2-4
Strong in matchplay as a winner of the 2006 Volvo World Match Play, Casey will make his first appearance in a decade.
He missed out in 2010 despite being the world number seven, but Bjorn persuaded him to retake a European Tour card in order to qualify. Won his first PGA Tour title for nine years in March at the Valspar Championship by holding off Tiger Woods.
Ian Poulter (ENG/wildcard pick)
Age: 42, World ranking: 34, Sixth appearance (’04, ’08, ’10, ’12, ’14, ’18), Record: 12-4-2
The ‘Postman’ is back for Europe after a return to form since missing 2016 at Hazeltine. Got his first win since 2012 at the Shell Houston Open.
The talismanic Englishman has a sensational Ryder Cup record and is unbeaten in his five singles matches to date. Will forever be remembered for his starring role in the ‘Miracle of Medinah’.
Henrik Stenson (SWE/wildcard pick)
Age: 42, World ranking: 24, Fifth appearance (2006, ’08, ’14, ’16, ’18), Ryder Cup record: 7-7-2
The Swede holed the winning putt on debut in 2006 at the K Club, before losing form and missing the 2010 and 2012 matches. But Stenson was a key member of the Gleneagles side two years later, forming a strong partnership with Justin Rose.
Expect that duo to feature heavily if Stenson’s elbow injury is kept at bay.
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)