Justin Rose is confident Europe won’t be heading into this year’s Ryder Cup with any “Hail Mary” partnerships and believes the Americans will be facing a “different animal” in Paris to the side hammered at Hazeltine.
Speaking as it was confirmed he’ll be playing in this summer’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane, the Olympic champion said Europe’s hopes of winning back the Ryder Cup in September after losing 17-11 in Minnesota had already been enhanced due to Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey all looking certain to be on Thomas Bjorn’s team.
Rahm is currently ranked fourth in the world after landing five victories in less than two years as a professional; European No 1 Fleetwood has just broken into the world’s top 10 for the first time and Casey returned to winning ways on the PGA Tour earlier this year.
None of that trio played in the 2016 match, which saw Europe taste defeat for the first time since 2008 with a side that contained no less than six rookies, namely Danny Willett, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan, Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood.
“We have a team shaping up to be a very different animal to last time,” insisted Rose, a four-time Ryder Cup player and the top-scorer with four points out five in Europe’s 16½-11½ success at Gleneagles in 2014. “Tommy, Jon Rahm and Paul Casey change the dynamics of that team massively in terms of the natural pairings we can field.
“It’s a 12-man team, but you’re only looking to find four pairings. Last time, we did the best with the pairings we could put out – but anything else was a bit of Hail Mary. So, for me, the inclusion of those boys in the team is going to shore up so many pairings and give us more options.”
Since holding off a determined late challenge from Rose to win the Race to Dubai last season, Fleetwood has kept his foot on the pedal by winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for a a second time and also recording three top-10 finishes in his first year on the PGA Tour. “I’m so impressed with Tommy as a golfer and an individual,” said Rose of his compatriot. “I played three rounds with him last week [in the Players Championship at Sawgrass] and he’s just class, on and off the course.
“He’s got one of the best temperaments on Tour. I can only see him going from strength to strength. He hits the ball impeccably – and I find myself copying Tommy any time I’m playing with him. I try to emulate the things he does. His attitude is really what stands out the most. He will be a great addition to the Ryder Cup team, absolutely.”
Rose, who won the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen in 2014 and is returning to the event for the first time since he defended the title at Gullane the following year, missed out on a chance to become world No 1 last week but is quietly confident he can claim that mantle now held by Justin Thomas. “Of course it’s a goal, a dream to say you are the No 1 player in the world but world No 1 for me is a byproduct of playing great golf,” said the Olympic champion. “Justin Thomas nipped in there last week but there are a lot of guys – Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson – who are right there. It could trade around quite a bit in the coming weeks.
“But, absolutely, the chance to make that No 1 spot mine with some great golf coming up, it’s a huge motivation. It’s only going to happen by winning tournaments. There’s no point in getting ahead of myself, because I don’t know how the other guys are going to play over the coming weeks. So it’s at the back of my mind, but the aim is to turn up and play well every week.”