Why Jon Rahm Can Be The Top Rookie At The 2018 Ryder Cup

Spaniard Jon Rahm was one of the breakout players on the PGA Tour during the 2016/17 campaign as the big-hitting golfer, who has one of the best golf swings in the sport, rose all the way up to number four in the world rankings. In what was a consistent year for the 23-year-old, the highlight was his victory in the Famers Insurance Open back in January at Torrey Pines, where he was successful by three strokes with a clubhouse score of -13.

Rahm made the occasional trip across to Europe last season and he was rewarded in July in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, which was hosted by Rory McIlroy. His margin of victory was six shots at Portstewart Golf Cup in a dominant display where he displayed his impressive links game. He had two rounds of 65, including on the final day, while a couple of 67s helped him to the trophy.

The Spaniard would have been disappointed with his performance in the four Majors in 2017. His best finish was a tie for 27th in the Masters at Augusta in what his debut in the prestigious tournament. He is 18/1 favourite to win the Green Jacket in 2018 where he will be hoping to learn from the experience of last year.

Rahm did though have two top-3 finishes in the World Golf Championship events. In the Mexico Championship, a final round of 68 helped in to end the week in a tie for third behind Dustin Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood respectively. Just a few weeks later, he was beaten by Johnson in the final of the WGC Match Play, a good sign for Europeans ahead of that Ryder Cup as he won 6 matches during that competition. There was no shame in losing to Johnson in the final as the American was in tremendous form at that point during the game after returning to the sport following a period of absence.

Europe captain Thomas Bjorn will be expecting Rahm to be an integral part of his team at Le Golf National in Paris where he will be making his debut. The man from Barrika has a fantastic temperament so he would not be fazed by the tournament like many rookies have been in the past. We can expect to see a lot of Rahm during the four-balls and foursomes on the opening two days and, if he can produce the kind of golf he showed during the WGC Match Play tournament, he will be fancied to pick up a point on the final day in his singles match up.

Who Could Join Rahm As A Rookie In The European Team?

Rahm is likely to be joined in the European team by Fleetwood, who has had an incredible year in Europe. The 26-year-old was the winner of the Race To Dubai, where he picked up a bonus of £944,000, the biggest prize of his career so far.

Fleetwood won twice on the European Tour in 2017. His opening victory was in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which consisted of a quality field with the likes of Johnson and Rickie Fowler from the USA. The Englishman’s final score was 271, which left him one stroke ahead of Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal after 72 holes. Bjorn would have been buoyed by Fleetwood’s second win of the year, which came in the Open de France at the 2018 Ryder Cup host venue. The man from Fleetwood shot a round of 66 on the Sunday to top the leaderboard at the end of the four days.

Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Noren both had big campaigns last season and, as long as they can reproduce the same golf in 2018, they will be pushing for a Ryder Cup place as rookies. It will be Rahm and Fleetwood though that will be seen as two of the most important players in the squad, which can help Europe to regain the trophy.

Who Are The Rookies Likely To Be In The USA squad?

The standout player on the PGA Tour last season was Justin Thomas; not only did he win five tournaments during the campaign, he was top of the official money list following the FedEx Cup playoffs. Thomas, who first caught the eye of many golf pundits in 2015, is sure to join a very experienced USA line up, which should include the likes of Jordan Spieth, Johnson, Fowler, Brooks Koepka, and Phil Mickelson, therefore, there won’t quite be as much pressure on him to lead his side like there is with Rahm and Fleetwood for the hosts.

The 2018 Ryder Cup begins on September 28 and will run through to September 30 as Europe look to win the tournament for the seventh time in the last nine meetings between these two sides.

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