Ryder Cup 2018: Six potential rookies chasing a place for Team Europe

Six rookies featured for Team Europe in 2016 and there are strong candidates making a case to be included in Thomas Bjorn's team when they take on the US next September in Paris

Lawrence Ostlere@lawrenceostlere
Friday 17 November 2017 13:31

Europe's 12-man team will be made up of the top four players on the European points list, the top four players on the world points list and four additional picks of the captain, Thomas Bjorn. The qualifying period began with the Czech Masters in August but added weight will be given to points gained in the run up to the Ryder Cup, handing an advantage to players who peak later in the season.

Tommy Fleetwood, 26

Fleetwood has been riding a wave this year, climbing from 99th in the world at the start of 2017 to reach the top 20. He claimed tournament victories in Abu Dhabi and in Paris at Le Golf National - the venue for next year's Ryder Cup.

He also finished runner-up in both Mexico and China, challenged for a major title on a Sunday at the US Open in June (finishing fourth), and to cap some year Fleetwood became a father too. “It has been a real sweet spot in my life,” he said in October. “But it’s not going to stop me trying to achieve more, pushing myself and trying to win more tournaments."

The biggest change in his game has been his driving which has soared from 61% accuracy on the European Tour in 2016 to 71% this year. Should he continue that form this season, he will book a place in Bjorn's team.

Fleetwood has enjoyed his best year to date 

Tyrrell Hatton, 26

It would be a surprise if Hatton wasn't a household name by the end of 2018. He has not exploded like Fleetwood so much as spluttered into life over the past two years with unfathomably streaky form.

He missed five cuts in a row over the summer before ending his baron spell emphatically with back to back European Tour titles at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which he retained following his debut tour win last year (Ross Fisher finished runner-up on all three occasions and must sick of the sight of Hatton).

He has developed something of a fiery reputation - "Sometimes I just get a bit frustrated," he told the Independent earlier this month - so expect him to be heralded as Europe's answer to Patrick Reed, America's very own fireball who has built a formidable partnership with Jordan Spieth. The duo may well start America's challenge in Paris, and with a sackful of European Tour points already secured it is not a stretch to imagine Hatton up against them.

Hatton celebrates his Italian Open title with his girlfriend (Getty)

Jon Rahm, 23

The Spaniard with a booming drive - which averaged 312 yards on the European Tour this year - has made a huge impact in his short career to date, and announced himself on the PGA Tour with an impressive victory in the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in January.

Rahm backed that up in Europe to confirm it was no one-off with a blistering display at the Irish Open, winning by six strokes with a record -24. The European Rookie of the Year will need to commit to either the PGA or European Tour in order to secure his place on the team, or else rely on a captain's pick.

Jon Rahm celebrates his eagle to win the Farmers Insurance Open (Getty)

Alexander Levy, 27

Levy has made no secret of his desire to compete at his home Ryder Cup and his decision to begin working with Pete Cowan, the former coach of Lee Westwood, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, could prove a masterstroke as the American-born Frenchman attempts to peak at the right time.

The world No 71 claimed the China Open in April after beat South African Dylan Fritteli in a play-off, but has made a slow start on the Tour this season and might well rely on a combination on some late form and a captain who wants a player who knows the intricacies of The Albatros course at Le Golf National.

Levy is determined to play in a Ryder Cup in France

Alex Noren, 35

The Swede does not have the supreme natural talent of some of those at the top of the world rankings and has instead worked relentlessly on his game to develop into a golfer capable of winning titles - he is now one of the most complete players on the European Tour.

Noren won four tournaments in 2016 including the Nedbank Golf Challenge which brought a $1,166,660 prize fund, but his pinnacle thus far came in May at Wenworth, where he navigated through the narrow treelines and putted sublimely to claim the BMW PGA Championship.

“It’s always difficult to predict that somebody would go out and do what he did,” said European captain Bjorn of Noren's brilliant 2016. “The talent’s always been there, but winning that many golf tournaments in a short period of time, that’s for very few to do.” After Wentworth Bjorn tweeted that Noren was "quickly turning into one of the world's best" and it looks increasingly likely he will secure a place in Team Europe next September.

Alex Noren celebrates winning the British Masters

Bernd Wiesberger, 32

The rangey Austrian won the Shenzhen International in April after edging out Fleetwood in a play-off. He performed well throughout 2015 and 2016 finishing ninth in the Race to Dubai standings, and was in the top ten for greens in regulation.

He is the most successful Austrian ever to play on the European Tour, with four titles, and would become the first player from the country to play in the Ryder Cup should he claim a spot in Bjorn's team.

"It would be a dream come true and a huge honour to play for the European side," he said last year. "The Ryder Cup is the only event I usually watch. It didn't make me feel good the fact I wasn't there at Hazeltine, but it has definitely given me extra motivation for next time."

Bernd Wiesberger at last year's Masters (Getty )

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