Team Europe taking shape for Ryder Cup defence

Europe will put forward very much a new look team when they fly to Hazeltine in Chaska, Missouri to defend the Ryder Cup against the United States at the end of next month.

Nine automatic qualifying spots were sealed following the Czech Masters, with exciting youngster Matthew Fitzpatrick nailing down his spot in his debut Ryder Cup with a fifth place finish in Prague.

2016 Ryder Cup 2016 Ryder Cup

Europe will therefore seek a record fourth successive Ryder Cup victory with at least five rookies on the team when the matches kick off from September 30 to October 2.

The debutants – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Masters champion Danny Willett and Chris Wood – will be joined by seasoned campaigners Rory McIlroy, Open champion Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Olympic champion Justin Rose, with captain Darren Clarke to round out his team with three wildcard picks on 30 August.

Clarke said: “I am absolutely delighted with the nine players who have qualified for The 2016 European Ryder Cup team. They offer not only a fantastic blend of youth and experience but also, already, some exciting partnership possibilities.”

“In the experienced corner we have the two men who have lit up the world of golf in recent weeks – Open champion Henrik Stenson and Olympic champion Justin Rose – joined by Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy who, aside from being two of the most dynamic Ryder Cup performers of recent years, are also winners this year in their own right: Sergio in the US and Rory in Europe.”

“In the rookies’ corner, it is very rare you begin any such list with the reigning Masters champion but we are fortunate to do just that with Danny Willett, while Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood bring a mixture of consistency and success that any Ryder Cup captain looks for over the course of a qualification campaign.”

With such an exciting blend of youth and experience already qualified, Clarke will have a pleasant headache over the next week as he seeks to add the three missing pieces to the puzzle, with a host of players putting their hands up for selection with their form in recent weeks.

Austrian Thomas Pieters had a wonderful chance at the Czech Masters to seal an automatic berth but will now have to wait for Clarke to determine if he too will make his debut appearance.

If Clarke is looking for some hardened experience, veteran Englishmen Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, who finished 2nd in the US last week, are pressing for recalls, while recent PGA TOUR winners Russell Knox and Irishman Shane Lowry would let nobody down if given the nod.

So too the unflappable German Martin Kaymer, who is a proven match winner for Europe at this level.

The American team qualification process is split into three separate dates, with the top eight automatic qualifiers to be determined at the end of next week’s The Barclays tournament.

Captain Davis Love III will make three of his four captain’s picks at the conclusion of the BMW Championship on September 11 with a final selection at the conclusion of the Tour Championship on September 25.