By Tim Liotta
Cup Recap: How will these players fare in '24 majors?
If the Ryder Cup stands as the closest thing in golf to a major championship when it comes to applying pressure to the game's best players, the just-concluded renewal served another notice that the table at the top of the game may need another place setting.
While Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and, yes, even Scottie Scheffler, showed off the other-worldly skills that have made them major champions, Viktor Hovland once again showed off a level of play that has forced fans to include him when they discuss the question: Who is the game's best player?
Here's how Fore Majors Golf sees the 2024 major championship forecast for the 24 players who competed the 44th Ryder Cup:
After a quiet - for Jon - end to his 2023 season, the reigning Masters champion used the Ryder Cup to once again display the kind of game that makes him a threat in every major championship he enters. The two-time major champion, who also finished T2 in this year's Open Championship, was one of three golfers not lose a single match. His halved singles match against Scottie Scheffler was one of the most scintillating advertisements for what match play can bring to the game, two heavyweights going toe to toe for 18 holes.
So much has been made of McIlroy's 10-year chase for his fifth career major championship that the Ryder Cup served as a reminder that he takes a back seat to no player in today's game. With close calls in this year's U.S. Open and last year's Open Championship, McIlroy, at 34, sparked more than a few thoughts that he may be destined to continue that chase forever. At the Ryder Cup, it never felt that way for a second. He played like he was golf's alpha dog from start to finish.
It's been fashionable to question Scheffler's place at among the game's best because his putting has been quite awful for most of 2023. Not so fast. When the Ryder Cup began, Scheffler was a month into his work with putting guru Phil Kenyon. His ball-striking remains just as other-worldly as ever.
Yes, his foursomes and four-ball results were terrible. However, his singles match against Jon Rahm proved once again that Scottie Scheffler stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's best.
Stay tuned for the putting improvement.
The last two months Hovland has played like he is the best player in the world, and his Ryder Cup week did nothing to diminish that claim. From the PGA Tour playoffs through Ryder Cup week, it has felt like this 26-year-old has taken ball-striking to another level, an exhibition capped by his 4&3 demolishing of Collin Morikawa, previously considered golf's best ball striker. A 6-time winner on the PGA Tour already, Hovland has three top-5s in his last five majors, and has not finished worse than 19th in that stretch.
Regardless of how this self-professed grumpy character comes across in an interview, Cantlay took advantage of this Ryder Cup to prove once again he has Game. His three birdies late Saturday, including a 43-foot bomb on the final hole, that wrestled a four-ball match from Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick provided the stuff legends are made of.
With 8 PGA Tour wins and a FedEx Cup title, Cantlay has a major resume that is baffling. His best finish is a T3 six shots behind Brooks Koepka in the 2019 PGA at Bethpage Black. That's his only top-five finish among four top-10s in 27 majors.
What little we see of Brooks in competitions that call on everything a golfer must muster in order to perform at the highest level, the Ryder Cup did little to shed light on the inigma that his personality puts forth. When he is on, he is a generational player who is a five-time major champion who has finished second another five times, and 14 top-5s in his 38 major championship attempts. His win in the 2023 PGA and his runner-up finish to Jon Rahm in the Masters means he will once again be a force to reckon with at Augusta National next April.
It felt as if Fleetwood, ranked 13th in the world, took another step closer toward the game's elite status at the Ryder Cup. With Europe desparately needing a half-point to clinch the Cup, Fleetwood stepped up and drove the par-4 17th hole en route to the birdie that clinched the Cup for the home side. Fleetwood, who contended for three days at this year's Open Championship before fading to a T10, posted a final-round 63 at this year's U.S. Open to claim his third top-5 finish in his last seven major championships.
Homa was as close to a break-out star that the United States had in Italy. The putt he made after his take-a-drop for his third shot from a greenside hazard on the 18th hole to halve his singles match with Matt Fitzpatrick was as big-time as it comes. Homa did take a step forward in his major championship play in 2023, posting his first-ever top-10 finish at the 2023 Open Championship. That bettered his previous best in 14 major tries - a T13 at the 2022 PGA.
The 2022 U.S. Open champion picked up his first Ryder Cup point on Friday, but fell victim to the two guttiest performances the U.S. team could muster - Patrick Cantlay's three-birdie finish in Saturday afternoon's four-ball, and Max Homa's 18th-hole heroics in Sunday's singles. The 29-year-old Englishman has posted four top-17 finishes in his last eight majors, including his victory at The Country Club. In 2023, Fitzpatrick finished T10 at the Masters, and T17 at the U.S. Open.
The 2023 U.S. Open champ notched a win and a tie in his two four-ball matches, but fell to the European's 12th man, Robert MacIntyre in singles, but the outcome was in doubt prior to Rickie Fowler's concession, which gave Europe the half-point it needed to win the Cup.
Clark hit the shot of the year on the 18th hole of the third round at the U.S. Open, drilling his second shot to a foot, giving him a birdie that got him into Sunday's final pair. With an elevated-event victory to go with his U.S. Open, Clark could say he had the second-best 2023 to Jon Rahm.
The 36-year-old Ryder Cup rookie earned two points pairing with Max Homa in foursomes and four-ball, but was beaten 3&2 by Tyrrell Hatton in singles. It remains to be seen how Harman follows up his dominant 6-shot victory at Royal Liverpool. He will be interesting to watch going into 2024.
For a 26-year-old with two major championships, 5 PGA Tour victories and another on the DP World Tour on his resume, Morikawa has played in 2023 like he has fallen further from the top of the golf world, and the Ryder Cup served as another reminder of that. In his 4&3 loss to Viktor Hovland in singles, Morikawa showed only a few flashes of being able to keep up with his European counterpart. From the 2020 PGA through the 2022 U.S Open, Morikawa posted two victories, two other top-5s, posting five top-10 finishes in nine majors. In his last five majors, Collin has missed two cuts, and failed to post a finish better than his T10 in the 2023 Masters.
Xander played like he was distracted by financial issues the first two days, dropping three team matches, before defeating Nickolai Hojgaard 3&2 in singles. Schauffele has posted top-20 finishes in each of the seven majors since the 2022 Masters. After a record-setting, opening-round 62 in the 2023 U.S. Open, Schauffele overcame a shaky final-round start to finish T10, matching his finish in the Masters.
Schauffele has been a major-championship machine, posting 19 top-25 finishes in his 26 major starts, including 11 top-10 finishes.
What do you say about a 23-year-old Swede who since leaving college four months ago has a top-10 on the PGA Tour, won a DP World title, and now has been part of a Ryder Cup-winning team on his professional resume. The two-time Ben Hogan Award winner as the best college golfer in the United States was the No. 1-ranked amateur prior to turning pro. He is also the first player ever to play in a Ryder Cup before playing in a major championship. No telling how bright this guy's future is.
The 22-year-old Danish profeesional who has won twice on the DP World Tour may have taken another step toward the major stage in the 44th Ryder Cup. After missing the cut in his first two major appearances, the winner of the 2018 European Amateur ranked No. 82 in the world has made played into the weekend in his last three majors, posting a personal-best T23 in this year's Open Championship.
The controversial Captain's pick held his own throughout the Ryder Cup, adding to his play in the Fortinet Championship as evidence that the he has emerged from the depths of his horrific 2023 slump. However, he is still a far cry from the player he was a few years ago, a two-time major champion who became the 21st player to be ranked No. 1 in the world in 2018.
The Austrian who sounds like he's from Georgia split his four-ball matches, and then took Justin Thomas to the 18th hole before falling 2-down. The first Austrian to earn a PGA Tour card has posted PGA Tour victories the last two years, and comes off his best major-championship season yet, following up a T7 at the PGA with a T2 at the Open Championship. He gives off the feeling he'll grow into a major champion.
The 27-year-old big-hitter had the misfortune of drawing a fired-up Rory McIlroy for his singles match, but put up a good fight while falling 3&1. Based on his 14 majors so far, he has some improving to do if he expects to be heard from during the 2024 major championships. Burns has posted just one top-25 finish - a T20 in the 2022 PGA - in his 14 majors so far. He missed the cut in two of the four 2023 major championships.
Another European who came up big for the Ryder Cup winners, capping a 3-0-1 performance with a 3&2 victory over Brian Harman in singles. Hatton has finished T15 or better in three of his last seven majors, and feels like he is on the rise in major championships. He made the cut in all four 2023 majors, finishing T34 or better in each.
The 2019 Open Champion played like he belonged with these guys, splitting his four-ball matches before playing Jordan Spieth to a draw after the Cup was decided. The 36-year-old Irishman hit a rough patch mid-year, missing the cut in the 151st Open Championship. He did, however, finish T116 at the Masters, T12 at the PGA and T20 at the U.S. open in 2023. With a T3 in the 2022 Masters and a T4 in the 2021 PGA, Lowry seems far from done at the major championship level.
Winless in 2022-23, Jordan played like a player who ranks 70th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 80th in Strokes Gained: Putting (PGA Tour statistics). A course like Marco Simone, with narrow fairways and penal rough, will expose Spieth's wobbly long game. While he still possesses the ability to amaze with his genius around the green, he simply does not putt like he used to. The putting stroke that ranked second in Strokes Gained: Putting in 2015-16 now feels like an adventure from in close. The man who once made miles of putts while winning major championships ranked 164th in Average Distance of Putts made in a tournament on the PGA Tour this year.
Nobody reminded golf fans of how good he once was more than Rose, who holed more clutch putts at this year's Ryder Cup than anyone imagined he could. Over and over, the 2013 U.S. Open champ who has three runner-up major championship finishes and two more thirds over his 25-year-old major career prompted as many roars as Rory from the European crowd.
Ranked 55th in the OWGR, MacIntyre was Europe's final qualifier - his 64 in the final round of the Scottish Open was a season highlight - and he had a nice Ryder Cup, teaming with Justin Rose for a win over Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, then beating Wyndham Clark in his single's match. However, the 27-year-old Scot looked to be in a bit over his head. The left-hander has three top-12 finishes in 12 major championships, and three European wins to his credit, and still has some room to climb.
Compared to where he's been the past few years, there's nothing wrong with being at the bottom of this list. Rickie comes across as a wonderful guy, and he's had a great 2023 during which he's climbed from oblivion to No. 25 in the world rankings. It's just so hard to forget that in the late hours of the third day when the Ryder Cup spotlight finally found Fowler he promptly deposited his tee shot into the water.