2023 Ryder Cup: Ranking the Trust Level of All 24 Americans and Europeans
Via Getty Images. Pictured (left to right): Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele & Jon Rahm.
Like all great ideas – and plenty of not-so-great ones – this idea was borne on a whim. It was during my SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show Hitting the Green when it dawned on me to ask my co-host Michael Collins to name the three players he trusts the most to perform well at this week’s Ryder Cup.
It’s a difficult question, but one – for me, at least – which uncovered a revealing answer.
The three players whom I most trust to find success are all on the European side.
Now, before you accuse me of some sort of reverse jingoism or self-loathing, that doesn’t tell the entire story. While three players on that roster are at the top, those from the U.S. team dominate the spots just behind them.
Since it’s football season and we’re all accustomed to the usual games, I decided to put this into terms of a confidence pool, listing each player from 1 to 24 in terms of how much confidence I have in them.
And hey, if you’re looking for some more action this week, a Ryder Cup Confidence Pool isn’t a bad idea. I’m open to scoring suggestions, but it could be as easy as ranking each player, then multiplying that ranking by their point totals. (For example, let’s say Player X is No. 1 on your list. He’d earn two points for each full-point and one for each half-point, multiplied by 24, the inverse of where he’s ranked.)
In any case, here’s how I’d rank my list – based not so much on predictions, but confidence.
1. Rory McIlroy (EUR)
Appearances: 7th (12-12-4)
How much does this competition mean to Rory McIlroy? One of the game’s most open and honest players was never more forthright than after the Ryder Cup two years ago, when he spoke with tears in his eyes about its importance.
Without a result outside the top 16 since May – and only two outside the top 10 in those 11 starts – McIlroy owns the greatest ceiling of anyone teeing it up this week.
2. Jon Rahm (EUR)
Appearances: 3rd (4-3-1)
Jon Rahm is known to have a temper and hold a grudge, which means bad things for American opponents as the feisty Spaniard looks to avenge a singles loss to Scottie Scheffler from two years ago after going 3-0-1 in his first four matches.
Three of those were alongside Sergio Garcia, so he’ll need to find a new partnership this week, but it’s tough to believe that Rahm can’t win with anyone beside him.
3. Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Appearances: 2nd (0-3-2)
Right before our very eyes, Viktor Hovland has matured into one of the world’s best players over the past few months. Instead of focusing on his weakness (around the greens), we’re marveling over his strengths (ball-striking, especially with long and mid irons).
At this point, it would only be a surprise if that progression didn’t continue this week.
4. Xander Schauffele (USA)
Appearances: 2nd (3-1-0)
A game without any real weakness always gives Xander Schauffele a high floor, but excelling in every facet also leads to a lofty ceiling.
He’s earned at least three full points in each of the last three years of team competitions, compiling a 9-4-0 record for the U.S. in those events.
5. Patrick Cantlay (USA)
Appearances: 2nd (3-0-1)
It’s difficult to envision the reserved Patrick Cantlay as a straw-that-stirs-the-drink type of personality in the U.S. team room, yet there exists a fiery demeanor underneath his calm façade.
A built-in pairing with Schauffele similarly helps to enforce confidence, as unlike some team members, he won’t be seeking a potential partner when he arrives.
6. Brooks Koepka (USA)
Appearances: 4th (6-5-1)
There are few players in the world who might instill a bit of intimidation into an opponent like five-time major champion Brooks Koepka.
Headlines will persist about a LIV Golf player competing amongst the PGA Tour members, but this will feel like business as usual for a guy who often appears most comfortable in the toughest situations.
7. Scottie Scheffler (USA)
Appearances: 2nd (2-0-1)
It might sound peculiar that the world’s No. 1-ranked player is so far down this list, but even casual observers of the game will understand why.
Scottie Scheffler is fresh off an historic campaign from tee to green, but until he can confidently stare down a series of putts from the range of 5-10 feet, there’s reason to quell our confidence in his ability to win.
8. Max Homa (USA)
Though he’s a rookie on this team, Max Homa was a stud at last year’s Presidents Cup and should once again feed off the high-pressure atmosphere of a team event.
If that’s not enough to instill confidence, then consider that some of his best performances have occurred on difficult tracks permeated by thick rough, which could mean Marco Simone is right up his alley.
9. Jordan Spieth (USA)
Appearances: 5th (8-7-3)
Those who have long rooted for Jordan Spieth through the hands covering their eyes understand that confidence really isn’t part of the repertoire when it comes to him.
He’ll routinely make the simple look difficult and the impossible look ordinary, though such back-and-forth can wreak havoc on an opponent who never quite knows how aggressive or cautious he needs to be.
10. Tommy Fleetwood (EUR)
Appearances: 3rd (4-2-2)
The last time this competition was held in Europe, Moli-Wood was the biggest craze, as Tommy Fleetwood teamed with Francesco Molinari to go undefeated in partnered competition over the first two days.
We remember that part, but we tend to forget that Fleetwood owns an 0-2-2 record in this event ever since that ensuing Sunday.
11. Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
Appearances: 3rd (2-4-1)
Everyone’s favorite combustible personality has been one of the game’s more consistent performers this year, though he still has something to prove in this event, as a 2-4-1 record in two previous appearances includes a combined 0-3-0 mark in singles and foursomes.
12. Rickie Fowler (USA)
Appearances: 5th (3-7-5)
Perhaps we can read something into the fact that an extraordinary five of his 15 lifetime Ryder Cup matches have ended in a draw, as if it’s some personification of his career – not quite good enough to win, but certainly good enough to not lose.
Critics will more likely point out that those 15 matches have only ended in three full points.
13. Shane Lowry (EUR)
Appearances: 2nd (1-2-0)
The consternation from some European supporters over Shane Lowry’s inclusion as a captain’s pick might’ve mirrored that of American fans when it came to Justin Thomas, however the Irishman’s failure to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs was more a byproduct of consistent play without any real peaks than any continued poor play.
If a potential partnership with McIlroy comes to pass, it should help bump him up this list a few more notches.
14. Collin Morikawa (USA)
Appearances: 2nd (3-0-1)
It’s been a weird year for Collin Morikawa – never quite at his optimal level, yet far from slumping or playing poorly, either.
Nobody in this competition hits the ball straighter off the tee, so if finding fairways becomes the premium that some have suggested it is, he could outshine plenty of opponents.
15. Ludvig Aberg (EUR)
If I’d told you, say, a year ago that there wouldn’t just be a player competing in the Ryder Cup who hadn’t yet played a major, but that we’d collectively be more confident in him than some other big-name talents, you wouldn’t have believed it.
Yet here we are, as the 23-year-old Ludvig Aberg has spent the summer effortlessly blitzing his way up leaderboards, unmistakably becoming the game’s next big thing.
16. Justin Thomas (USA)
Appearances: 3rd (6-2-1)
Remember: This is about confidence, it isn’t a prediction – and yes, there’s a very thin line between the two.
I happen to think that on the heels of an uncharacteristically poor campaign, Justin Thomas is primed for a big performance, but I can’t unequivocally maintain that I’m fully confident in him having his best stuff this week, either.
17. Brian Harman (USA)
The gritty veteran Brian Harman might not garner much confidence from the masses, but how soon we forget that it was only three months ago when he traveled across the pond and lapped the field in dismantling Royal Liverpool and earning his first major championship title.
18. Justin Rose (EUR)
Appearances: 6th (13-8-2)
At some point, the numbers don’t lie. In five previous appearances, Justin Rose owns a 13-8-2 record in this event – dead-even in foursomes and singles but an impressive 7-2-1 in the four-balls format.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see the veteran pair with one of the four rookies on this team over the first two days.
19. Wyndham Clark (USA)
When Wyndham Clark is good, he’s really good, but when he’s not, well… let’s just say he doesn’t exactly own the highest floor in that U.S. team room.
Playing him in four-balls rather than foursomes and getting lucky with a singles match where he can play the role of giant killer against one of Europe’s top players could be the path to getting the most out of him.
20. Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
Appearances: 3rd (0-5-0)
Seven years ago, Matt Fitzpatrick was a bit of an afterthought on the European squad, sitting out both sessions on Friday, playing (and losing) Saturday morning and then losing his singles match. It didn’t get any better two years ago, as he finished 0-3-0.
Fitzpatrick gets the advantage of playing in front of the home fans and becoming a major champion in the meantime, but there are certainly reasons to be cynical going into this one.
21. Sam Burns (USA)
There’s a sense that Sam Burns might’ve been sixth of the six captain’s picks and that a longtime friendship with Scheffler helped push him over that threshold.
None of that might be wrong, but let’s remember that he did win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play this year. If there’s a reason for pessimism, it’s that much of his stateside success has come on Bermuda greens, and the surfaces at Marco Simone are decidedly not.
22. Sepp Straka (EUR)
A big dude with the nickname of Ox, the Austrian-by-way-of-Georgia has a reputation as a big hitter, but the reality is that he ranks 98th in driving distance on the PGA Tour and 21st in driving accuracy.
Sepp Straka also owns a reputation for being a streaky player, which is much more deserved. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his matches fail to reach the 16th hole a few times – win or lose.
23. Robert MacIntyre (EUR)
Hardly a consistently high-level performer, Robert MacIntyre tends to step up and play his best golf when it means the most, which could portend good things this week.
The left-hander seemingly ranks as one of the bigger wildcards for Europe – essentially, a guy with bigger range between his ceiling and floor than many of his teammates.
24. Nicolai Hojgaard (EUR)
Hey, being 24th on a list of 24 players in the Ryder Cup still beats where someone like Adrian Meronk is ranked right now.
It’s still a bit of a surprise, perhaps, that one of the Hojgaard twins was named to this team, but it won’t be a surprise if Nicolai only plays one or two partnered matches going into the Sunday singles session.