Ryder Cup 2023: Ludvig Aberg, Sepp Straka and Nicolai Hojgaard headline European team captain Luke Donald’s picks

With the Ryder Cup just weeks away, Team Europe captain Luke Donald announced his six picks that complete the 12-player squad looking to win the United States trophy at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy.

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre secured their automatic place in the team following last week’s Omega European Masters, but it was event winner Ludvig Aberg who got Donald’s sixth and final pick.

The 23-year-old has been on everyone’s lips since joining the professional ranks in June and many expect the Swede to reach the top.

As he recorded four top-25 finishes and one top-five finish in the handful of PGA Tour events he played, people quickly began to wonder if his form might be influencing Donald’s thinking.

“I played with him in Detroit [3M Open] and he was blown away by his game,” Donald explained.

“He kept progressing, and you know, I challenged him, came to Europe and played a few weeks. He finished fifth (tied for fourth) in Czech [Masters] and obviously you know what he did yesterday. It was like a walk in the park for him and for someone so inexperienced, it was so impressive.

Donald’s challenge to Aberg certainly paid off and he will become the youngest player in Ryder Cup history.

Austrian Sepp Straka and Dane Nicolai Hojgaard will join Aberg as the team’s rookies.

It was a breakthrough year for Straka, 30, who not only tied for second at the Open in July, but also won silverware at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour that same month.

“It was a specific goal to be part of this team, but it always seemed so far away, so distant,” he said.

“I just knew I had to play good golf. I showed good form this summer and I’m honored and really happy to be here.”

The burly big hitter has courage of steel which will be an important part of the European machine if they are to get the job done in Rome.

Hojgaard also has a seat on the plane. The 22-year-old Dane has enjoyed an impressive debut campaign on the PGA Tour, narrowly missing out on victory at the Corales Puntacana Championship in March and recording a tie for 14th in his final event across the pond at the Wyndham Championship.

However, his pedigree in Europe is even more impressive and, at present, he is one of the in-form players ahead of Marco Simone, a course he won on in 2021.

“He’s a young superstar,” Donald said of the Dane. “The world is his, because what he has accomplished so far is only the beginning for him. We wanted in-form players and what he did in the last two weeks (recording a top-five finish in the last two qualifying events) was special.

To no one’s surprise, Tommy Fleetwood received the captain’s pick after being pushed out of the automatic spots by Fitzpatrick over the weekend. The Englishman will be making his third European appearance, having had both a win and a loss, and he is looking forward to playing at home.

“A home crowd is the most amazing thing, it’s the best atmosphere we can play in front of, that’s for sure.”

Donald will rely on one of his most experienced players to not only perform and gain the upper hand on the American team, but also to help and guide the four rookies who are starting in Italy.

Another experienced chef that Donald has given the green light to is Justin Rose. The 43-year-old will be playing in his sixth Ryder Cup and will play a central role in the Team Europe locker room.

The Englishman re-entered the PGA Tour winner’s circle this year by winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and is back in form and playing the golf that fans have been accustomed to throughout his distinguished career.

Rose admitted there’s nothing like team golf: “You’re doing it for something bigger than yourself.” I always felt like when you put the shirt on and you wear the patch on your chest, it inspires you to be the best version of yourself.

Shane Lowry also got the call, marking his second appearance for the team after suffering the tough defeat in 2019.

The Irishman was one of the brightest sparks in a difficult week for the team, sinking decisive putts in crucial moments and thumping his chest with passion throughout.

The 2019 Open winner was delighted to be chosen: “I am incredibly proud and grateful for all of the above. Very excited for Rome. You know, the last time hurt a little bit, but I’m excited to play the Ryder Cup at home and I’m very grateful that Luke gave me the opportunity to go out there and show again what I can do.

Donald is hoping for the same in Marco Simone, even if his form is not in the best place it has been in recent years.

Source link: https://www.eurosport.com/golf/ryder-cup/2023/ryder-cup-2023-ludvig-aberg-sepp-straka-nicolai-hojgaard-headline-team-europe-captain-luke-donalds-p_sto9780898/story.shtml

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