2023 Ryder Cup Players: Attempting to Predict All 28 Matchups
Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images. Pictured: Ryder Cup Team USA captain Zach Johnson
Happy Ryder Cup Tuesday, everybody — and I stress that it’s Tuesday when I’m writing this, because as the week progresses, the prognostications you’re about to read are going to come into clearer focus, so don’t mean-tweet me after clicking on this piece Friday morning and tell me I’ve gotten it all wrong.
OK, enough with the preamble.
Starting Friday in Rome, we’re about to witness 16 partnered matches — from foursomes to four-balls, then repeating again — and 12 singles matches to determine the winner.
Nothing is set in stone yet; the first session will be announced Thursday afternoon and all subsequent sessions might only be determined by performance. And yet, that’s not going to stop any of us from trying to figure out exactly what U.S. captain Zach Johnson and Europe captain Luke Donald will decide upon for the three-day event.
This is, of course, an eminently ridiculous exercise for a few reasons: First, anything past the opening session is results-based, so developments will happen; and second, we’ll find out all these answers soon enough anyway.
Good thing I’m a sucker for ridiculous exercises.
Using what we know, what we’ve already seen and then taking a few gambles on those performances, here’s my take on when and where we’ll see every player and whom they might be playing against.
Ryder Cup Predictions
Match 1: Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry (EUR)
Johnson leads off with his most emotional pairing while Donald counters with his team leader. In the market of “To Hit First Shot for Europe,” McIlroy remains at 7/2 odds, but Lowry is four times that number at 14/1, offering plenty of value.
Match 2: Collin Morikawa/Max Homa (USA) vs. Jon Rahm/Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
Tough to not love the idea of such juxtaposition with the game’s two most fiery world-class players against a couple of guys who are California cool.
Match 3: Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs. Viktor Hovland/Ludvig Aberg (EUR)
It’s become obvious that Donald has chosen Hovland, a fellow Scandinavian, to hold the hand of rookie Aberg, who of course should need no hand-holding whatsoever.
Match 4: Scottie Scheffler/Sam Burns (USA) vs. Tommy Fleetwood/Justin Rose (EUR)
Of all these potential partnerships, Fleetwood/Rose was the only one in which the players didn’t practice together on Tuesday. If we take that as a cue, it might instead be Matt Fitzpatrick with Rose, but leaving the in-form Fleetwood on the sidelines feels like a tough decision.
Match 5: Brooks Koepka/Wyndham Clark (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry (EUR)
I’ll readily admit that I have a much better feel for the U.S. pairings as we move past the opening session than the European tandems. The thought here is that McIlroy and Lowry look strong together in the opener and Donald keeps them together until it stops working.
Match 6: Jordan Spieth/Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Matt Fitzpatrick/Robert Macintyre (EUR)
We’ve all come to assume that Spieth and Thomas are an inseparable duo, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if JT sits and Spieth gets another buddy in Fowler for a few matches this week.
Match 7: Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs. Jon Rahm/Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Ding, ding, ding. That’s the sound of the bell for this heavyweight fight, featuring four players ranked in the top six of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Match 8: Scottie Scheffler/Brian Harman (USA) vs. Tommy Fleetwood/Sepp Straka (EUR)
There’s a chance Scheffler never tees off without Burns by his side for the first two days, but Harman has to play somewhere, and it makes sense to pair him with a guy who could use some help on the greens. Speaking of making sense, Fleetwood/Straka might be more likely in foursomes, but I think Rose will be rested here and Nicolai Hojgaard gets the Caroline Hedwall treatment.
Match 9: Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry (EUR)
I’ll preface the Saturday predictions with two things we know if we’ve been listening carefully enough: Johnson and his assistants have been very transparent in talking about the physical demands necessary on this course, almost as if they’re setting up the potential of nobody playing five matches and everyone getting a rest before Sunday.
Meanwhile, Donald has taken a very analytical, stats-based approach, meaning he’s less likely than previous captains to move to Plan B if the original strategy isn’t working. For that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised to see many of the same partnerships on Saturday that we saw on Friday.
Match 10: Collin Morikawa/Max Homa (USA) vs. Tommy Fleetwood/Sepp Straka (EUR)
OK, so maybe now I’m simply hedging my bet by suggesting that Fleetwood/Straka will play foursomes together at some point.
Match 11: Scottie Scheffler/Sam Burns (USA) vs. Viktor Hovland/Ludvig Aberg (EUR)
A pair of repeat duos here, though these teams might make even more sense playing together in four-balls.
Match 12: Wyndham Clark/Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Jon Rahm/Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
Unless they’re absolutely whupping their opponents and pleading to play, don’t be surprised if/when names are announced for a session and Schauffele/Cantlay aren’t included.
Match 13: Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Tommy Fleetwood (EUR)
It’s hard to imagine that Donald won’t ride his horses, meaning McIlroy, Rahm and Hovland should go the full five matches.
Match 14: Rickie Fowler/Brian Harman (USA) vs. Matt Fitzpatrick/Nicolai Hojgaard (EUR)
I’ve been suggesting for a while now that Fowler is the most malleable member of this team, the player who can pair with anyone else, and if these predictions come to pass, he could play with three different partners.
Match 15: Collin Morikawa/Max Homa (USA) vs. Viktor Hovland/Ludvig Aberg (EUR)
It might not take until the afternoon session on Saturday for Donald to realize that he can’t leave a talent like Aberg sitting on the sideline.
Match 16: Brooks Koepka/Wyndham Clark (USA) vs. Jon Rahm/Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
Each of these Americans has already said publicly that he wants to play with the other one, and placing them together in the four-balls format seems to make the most sense.
Match 17: Justin Thomas (USA) vs. Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
If attempting to predict the partnered matches is ridiculous, trying to nail down any of the singles matches is downright foolish. And yet, here we are. Let’s go with a couple of guys who can get the Italian crowds whipped into a frenzy early. It might not be Rory/Reed at Hazeltine, but this one would be fun.
Match 18: Jordan Spieth (USA) vs. Jon Rahm (EUR)
What makes this exercise even tougher is that we don’t know the score entering the final day, though in any scenario it’s difficult to believe the captains will wait too long in using their studs. One small trick: I think the captains still send out players in their pods, to keep the same assistants with them on the course.
Match 19: Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy (EUR)
One of the biggest shames of the Ryder Cup tradition is that captains still write names, 1 through 12, and submit them, rather than pairing players up against each other. Oftentimes, the result is a failure to produce many of the matches we’d most like to see, though this one would be terrific.
Match 20: Xander Schauffele (USA) vs. Shane Lowry (EUR)
Again, just keeping with the pods here.
Match 21: Wyndham Clark (USA) vs. Tommy Fleetwood (EUR)
Despite a U.S. Open title and another win at a PGA Tour signature event, Clark is largely being viewed by the public as an afterthought, but he could have a very impressive Ryder Cup debut.
Match 22: Brooks Koepka (USA) vs. Sepp Straka (EUR)
In two previous Ryder Cup appearances, Koepka owns a 1-0-1 singles record.
Match 23: Scottie Scheffler (USA) vs. Nicolai Hojgaard (EUR)
How the tables have turned. Hojgaard will be trying to play giant-killer here, just as Scheffler did to Rahm two years ago.
Match 24: Sam Burns (USA) vs. Robert Macintyre (EUR)
Frontload? Backload? Difficult decisions for the captains, but we’d have to think that a couple of back-of-the-roster guys will have a major hand in determining the overall champion.
Match 25: Max Homa (USA) vs. Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Though Homa seems like a rabbit-type in this format, wanting to go out early, he was 10th in the order at last year’s Presidents Cup and won his match to complete a 4-0-0 performance.
Match 26: Collin Morikawa (USA) vs. Ludvig Aberg (EUR)
I’m not suggesting that he’ll beat Morikawa here – this is all fantasyland at this point – but if you like Europe to win, a deep-in-the-lineup Aberg makes some sense to clinch the winning point at 25/1.
Match 27: Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Justin Rose (EUR)
Moderate success, but lots of experience in this potential match of Fowler (1-2-1 in Ryder Cup singles) against Rose (2-2-1).
Match 28: Brian Harman (USA) vs. Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
The last player in the lineup can be a stopgap – and might turn into the most important man on the roster – but Harman will use any perceived slight he can find to build up that proverbial chip on his shoulder.