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Ryder Cup: Europe's all-time greatest team

Ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, we've put together 12 of Europe's finest to create an all-time Ryder Cup team.

With so many incredible players having such a massive impact on numerous Ryder Cups, it's no easy task whittling it down to 12, but here's our all-time European side.

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Seve Ballesteros

Ryder Cups: 8
Wins: 4
Points: 22.5
Record: 20-12-5

The first name on the team sheet, Severiano Ballesteros. 

Though he only ranks sixth on Europe’s all-time points scorers, there’s a strong case to be made that Seve is Europe’s greatest ever player. He gave credibility to a tournament that was once a biennial American blowout, turning into a fiercely competitive contest that occasionally crossed into hostility – and he played his part in that, too.

Seve had a surprisingly poor singles record of 2-4-2, but he was instrumental in countless European successes, arguably just as much even after his passing, with his silhouette sported on European uniforms in 2012.

Jose Maria Olazabal

Ryder Cups: 7
Wins: 4
Points: 20.5
Record: 18-8-5

And where would Seve be without Ollie? The Spanish Armada of Ballesteros and Olazabal were as good a Ryder Cup pairing as we’re ever likely to see. Ballesteros was one of the world’s best golfers in the 1980s but lacked a proper partner.

Enter Ollie. Such is the competitive nature of Ryder Cups, winning more than half of your matches is something to be celebrated, but Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros took things to a new level. They lost just one of eight foursomes matches and one of seven four-ball matches, winning 12 points from a possible 15 together. 

His record in four-balls is also the greatest in European history, tied with Ian Woosnam with 10.5 points from 14 matches.

Ian Poulter

Ryder Cups: 7
Wins: 5
Points: 16
Record: 15-8-2

When looking at a Venn diagram of Europe’s greatest golfers and Europe’s greatest Ryder Cup players, it’s almost a perfect circle, with one name jutting out.

With no disrespect to Ian Poulter, you can’t rank his achievements alongside the likes of Nick Faldo and Sergio Garcia, but put him European blue and he sits right up there with the very best.

Nobody raised their game more than Poulter for the Ryder Cup, so much so that he only qualified once, requiring captain’s picks for the other six editions. 

A controversial pick in 2008, Poulter was Europe’s shining light at Valhalla, as Europe went down 16.5-11.5, with Poulter top-scoring.

Poulter boldly claimed that he would deliver a point on Sunday at Celtic Manor in 2010, which he did, once again top-scoring in the competition.

And for the third straight Ryder Cup, Poulter topped the lot for the Miracle at Medinah.

Though his influence waned in later years, he still finished with an unbeaten singles record of 6-0-1.

Justin Rose

Ryder Cups: 5
Wins: 3
Points: 14
Record: 13-8-2

Making his debut in 2008, Justin Rose scored three points at Valhalla in Europe's losing effort as a rookie before being somewhat harshly omitted from the 2010 team.

But in 2012, Rose was one of the catalysts for the Miracle at Medinah, holing three massive putts in the last three holes on Sunday to go from 1DN to beat Phil Mickelson 1UP.

A terrific ball-striker, Rose has been selected to play in all 10 foursomes sessions across his five Ryder Cups, accruing a remarkable record of 7-2-1, and remains one of only seven players to have played more than 10 matches and have a record better than 60%.

Henrik Stenson

Ryder Cups: 5
Wins: 3
Points: 11
Record: 10-7-2

Consistently ranked in the world’s top 20 between 2006 and 2008, Henrik Stenson scored 1.5 points in both the 2006 and 2008 Ryder Cup, holing the winning putt in 2006.

A major dip in form saw Stenson miss out in 2010 and 2012, but he came back as one of the world’s best golfers, striking up a formidable partnership with Justin Rose that would span three Ryder Cups.

The pair won all three matches together before reuniting in the losing 2016 effort at Hazeltine, where they took down the marquee duo of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed 5&4.

Stenson then played both foursomes matches with Rose in Paris, adding two more points to their total, making them the joint-second most successful pairing in European history.

Colin Montgomerie

Ryder Cups: 8
Wins: 5
Points: 23.5
Record: 20-9-7

One of just six Europeans to win 20 Ryder Cup matches, Colin Montgomerie will forever go down as one of the greatest Ryder Cup players. 

He could be paired with rookies like Darren Clarke and Paul Lawrie, or veterans like Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer. He could go out first on Sunday or last on Sunday; Monty guaranteed points for Europe.

In fact, Montgomerie remained unbeaten in singles, and no European has more than his six points on Sunday. 

Starting in 1991, Montgomerie played in eight consecutive Ryder Cups, becoming a mainstay of the European team and a Ryder Cup legend. 

Nick Faldo

Ryder Cups: 11
Wins: 5
Points: 23.5
Record: 20-9-7

It’s a testament to Nick Faldo’s longevity that he played in the same Ryder Cup as Neil Coles, whose first Ryder Cup was 1961, and Lee Westwood, whose last Ryder Cup was in 2021.

Across his first four Ryder Cups, Faldo amassed a remarkable 11-4-0 record and across 11 Ryder Cups, scored at least three points on five occasions.

Not always the easiest golfer to find a partner for, Faldo struck up a good understanding with Ian Woosnam, registering six points across 1987 and 1989, before finding similar chemistry with Colin Montgomerie in 1993, taking 2.5 points from four matches together.

In 1997, Faldo became the first European golfer to reach 25 points, finally being overtaken by Sergio Garcia in 2018.

Sergio Garcia

Ryder Cups: 10
Wins: 6
Points: 28.5
Record: 25-13-7

Like Faldo, one of Sergio Garcia’s greatest assets was his longevity. Becoming the first teenager to play in a Ryder Cup back in 1999, Garcia would be part of every Ryder Cup team bar 2010 up to 2021.

From his debut at Brookline, Garcia left an indelible mark on the Ryder Cup, taking 3.5 points as a rookie. Garcia’s worst return from his first four Ryder Cups was three points – a figure he’d reach in six of his 11 appearances – and he was joint-top scorer in 1999, 2004 and 2006.

Garcia remains Europe’s record points scorer with 28.5, and it’s a figure that may never be surpassed.

Luke Donald

Ryder Cups: 4
Wins: 4
Points: 10.5
Record: 10-4-1

Luke Donald might not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of the Ryder Cup, but nobody to have played more than 10 matches for Europe has a better record.

Making his debut back in 2004, Donald won both his foursomes matches, posting a 3-0-0 record in 2006.

Missing out in 2008, Donald was back in 2010, scoring three more points from four matches and added a vital point with Garcia on Saturday evening in 2012 with Europe 10-4 down and facing defeat. 

Donald would go out first on Sunday, securing the first point of the day as Europe pulled off the Miracle at Medinah with the Englishman finishing his playing career having won all four Ryder Cups he played in.

Bernhard Langer

Ryder Cups: 10
Wins: 6
Points: 24
Record: 21-15-6

Alongside Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer was at the forefront of the European invasion that began in 1979.

Langer’s first Ryder Cup would come two years later in 1981, but it wasn’t until 1983 that the competition would finally become competitive. Europe would lose 14.5-13.5, but Langer would top-score with Faldo on four.

Langer added 6.5 more points to his tally before losing all three matches in 1989. Things would get worse for Langer two years later, missing a six-footer that would’ve seen Europe retain the Ryder Cup 

The German would be a mainstay of European teams throughout the 1990s until missing out in 1999, returning three years later to re-create a partnership he first formed in 1991 with Colin Montgomerie and scoring 2.5 points from three matches.

To this day, Langer still ranks as the third-highest point scorer in European history with 24 points. 

Ian Woosnam

Ryder Cups: 8
Wins: 5
Points: 16.5
Record: 14-12-5

The man himself would probably admit it, but Nick Faldo wasn’t always the easiest player to be paired with at Ryder Cups. 

Regardless, no one had more success with Faldo than Ian Woosnam, with the duo taking six points from a possible 10.

It wasn’t a particularly successful start to Ryder Cup life for Woosnam, who mustered just 2.5 points from his first seven matches, but his fortunes began to change in 1987, scoring 3.5 points from four matches on Friday and Saturday before taking 2.5 points across Friday and Saturday in 1989.

Woosie then won all four matches on Friday and Saturday in 1993, including a 7&5 win with Bernhard Langer – a scoreline that’s never been bettered by a European team.

Woosnam’s Ryder Cup career saw him lift the trophy five times – and once more as captain – and finish with 10.5 points from 14 four-ball matches, a European record.

Rory McIlroy

Ryder Cups: 6
Wins: 4
Points: 14
Record: 12-12-4

The last man on the team sheet, Rory McIlroy gets the nod ahead of the likes of Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.

It should be said that his points percentage is the worst on the team and the Northern Irishman actually loses more pairs matches than he wins.

But while McIlroy has played 16 times with Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, recent years have seen him take on a leadership role in the team, partnering rookies including Andy Sullivan, Thomas Pieters (where the pair were a perfect 3-0-0 to their credit) and Thorbjorn Olesen.

On Sunday, McIlroy has come to life. He holed arguably the greatest putt in Ryder Cup history in 2016 and has a record of 3.5 points from six matches. It should also be mentioned that he’s never been sent out lower than third, facing the likes of Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.

And come Sunday of a Ryder Cup, who’d put their hand up to play 18 holes against McIlroy?

The omissions

With some stellar names missing out, it's only fair we explain why...

Lee Westwood is perhaps the unluckiest to miss out, being Europe’s third highest points scorer with 24, but his 24 points come from 46 matches, giving him a points percentage of 51%, and while he was largely good with a partner, his singles record of 4-7-0 leaves lots to be desired.

Darren Clarke will forever go down in history for his performance in 2006 at The K Club and he does have a stellar record of 11.5 points from 20 matches for 57.5%. His four-ball record of 6-2-1 is the envy of many a Ryder Cup player, but with no Westwood on the team and six of his 10 team points coming with Westwood, who does the Northern Irishman play with?

Graeme McDowell actually has a comparable record with Luke Donald and could've been included, particularly for his exploits in 2014, not to mention getting Europe over the line at Celtic Manor in 2010, but it's hard to pick G-Mac over his fellow countryman McIlroy, whom he played with six times across 2010 and 2012.

Jon Rahm won’t just be on this team in 10 years’ time, he might well be leading it but, as good as he is, two Ryder Cups isn’t quite enough to make the cut here.

The all-time European Ryder Cup team:

Seve Ballesteros
Jose Maria Olazabal
Ian Poulter
Justin Rose
Henrik Stenson
Colin Montgomerie
Nick Faldo
Sergio Garcia
Luke Donald
Bernhard Langer
Ian Woosnam
Rory McIlroy

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