Over the last few weeks there has been plenty of talk in the media on the Form vs. Experience debate in the build up to the Ryder Cup – this got me thinking about rookie performance in the competition..
The 2018 events features eight rookies. Five are from Europe (Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Norén and Thorbjørn Olesen) and three are from the U.S (Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau).
What can be expected of the newcomers? Below are some basic stats and specifics based on the data since 1979.
- In total, 151 rookies have featured in the competition since the 1979 event in West Virginia. 71 are European and 80 are from the U.S. The highest number debuted in 1979 (14 newcomers) and the fewest in 1985 (just 5 newcomers). While there has always been a new face for both sides, four Ryder Cups have seen a Captain choose just one rookie: José Rivero (1985), Ronan Rafferty (1989), David Duval (1999) and Nicolas Colsaerts (2012).
- Larry Nelson’s 1979 Ryder Cup tally of 5 points is still the best ever haul by a rookie since the competition was extended to include continental European golfers, albeit he was given the opportunity to reach this points total. Thomas Pieter’s tally of 4 points is the second best total for a rookie and best European rookie total. In fact, Europe’s 2016 rookie average is masked by Pieter’s excellent performance as other newcomers to the competition such as Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick all failed to gain even half a point.
- On average the U.S rookies have outperformed the European ones. From 1979 to 2016, the average U.S rookie point total is 1.67 in comparison to 1.33 for the Europeans.
- The last two Ryder Cups have seen leading rookie performances from U.S players. In 2014 Jimmy Walker (2.5), Jordan Spieth (2.5) and Patrick Reed (3.5) put in the best rookie performance on average. The second best was in 2016 by Brooks Koepka (3) and Ryan Moore (2). The third best performance was by the European rookies in 1987: Gordon Brand, Jnr (1.5) and José María Olazábal (3).
Although the U.S didn’t win in Gleneagles in 2014, their rookies haven’t left them down over the past two competitions. The pressure will be on Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau to keep this going. For the Europeans, the five rookies will have to avoid drawing blanks like last time out when three players failed to even get a half point. This also happened in 99 when Sandelin, van de Velde and Coltart all failed to get on the scoreboard.