Does this spell bad Ryder Cup news for Matt Wallace?

Matt Wallace

Sorry, Matt Wallace. You’re not going to like this.

Realistically, the Englishman is the only rookie in the frame for one of Thomas Bjorn’s wild cards. Cases could be made for Eddie Pepperell and Russell Knox, too, but Wallace’s is the most compelling.

Here’s the problem he might have.

We’ve pored over all the data and discovered that rookies, on average, contribute fewer points when picked than players who have played in the match previously.

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Matt Wallace 2

Picks were first introduced at the 1979 Ryder Cup, at the same time as Continental Europeans were invited into the fold. With the exception of the 1983 match, when the European team was chosen entirely from the 1983 European Tour money list, these ‘wild cards’ have been a mainstay of the match ever since.

In total, 44 European picks have been made across 18 editions of the Ryder Cup.

Rookies have accounted for precisely one quarter (11) of those picks, returning 15.5 points out of a possible 34 – a 45.6% return.

By comparison, the other 33 picks all went to players who had played in at least one prior Ryder Cup. They have contributed a total of 62 points out of a possible 126 – a 49.2% return.

Fine margins but margins nonetheless.

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With five rookies already on his side, will Bjorn favour adding a sixth with one of his four wild cards? Or will he overlook a player who has won three times on his beloved European Tour this season? We’ll find out tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are some more things you might want to know about the history of European Ryder Cup picks...

Ryder Cup Trophy

• Players representing ten different countries have been given a captain’s pick for the European Ryder Cup team. They are:

Republic of Ireland
England
Spain
Scotland
Germany
Sweden
Wales
Northern Ireland
Italy
Belgium

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English Flag

• English golfers have been picked most often. They account for 18 of the 44 European Ryder Cup team picks made to date. Players from Scotland and Spain have been picked the next most often (six each), followed by Sweden (four), the Republic of Ireland (3), Germany and Belgium (twice each), and Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy (all one each).

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• At least one English player has been picked in 14 of the 18 matches where picks have been awarded. There has also been at least one English player picked in the last seven matches and eight of the last ten. 

• There has been at least one rookie picked for each of the last four European Ryder Cup teams and five of the last seven.

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Jesper Parnevik 1997 Ryder Cup

• Jesper Parnevik holds the longest ‘pick streak’ in Europe, having been given a wild card in three successive matches: 1997, 1999 and 2002.

• Rookies account for exactly a quarter of all European picks (11/44). They are:

Des Smyth (1979)
Jose Rivero (1985)
Jose Maria Olazabal (1987)
Joakim Haeggman (1993)
Jesper Parnevik (1997)
Andrew Coltart (1999)
Luke Donald (2004)
Edoardo Molinari (2010)
Nicolas Colsaerts (2012)
Stephen Gallacher (2014)
Thomas Pieters (2016)

• Three of those 11 rookies failed to back up their captains’ faith in them with so much as a half-point in the match: Smyth, Coltart and Gallacher. In total, eight out of the 44 picks in the history of the European Ryder Cup team have come away from the week empty-handed.

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Nick Faldo

• No European player has been picked more often than Nick Faldo, who has been a captain’s pick four times.

• Nine players have been picked more than once:

Nick Faldo – 4 (1985, ’91, ‘95, ’97)
Jose Maria Olazabal – 3 (1987, ’91, ’93)
Jesper Parnevik – 3 (1997, ’99, ’02)
Lee Westwood – 3 (2006, ’14, ’16)
Ian Poulter – 3 (2008, ’12, ’14)
Peter Oosterhuis – 2 (1979, ’81)
Ken Brown – 2 (1985, ’87)
Mark James – 2 (1981, ’91)
Luke Donald – 2 (2004, ’10)

• The average age of European Ryder Cup picks is 32.3 years. The youngest player ever to be picked for the side is Jose Maria Olazabal. The Spaniard was 21 when he was picked by Tony Jacklin in 1987. At 43 years of age, Lee Westwood was the oldest player to be picked when he received one of Darren Clarke’s wild cards in 2016. It’s unlikely either ‘record’ will fall this year.

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