We’re closing in on the 2018 Ryder Cup, which will take place Sept. 27-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. It’s the first time the Ryder Cup will be held at Le Golf National, but prepare to hear more about this track in the future, as it’s set to host the 2024 Olympic Golf Tournament as well.
There is still plenty of time for things to change as far as the team rosters are concerned, and the results of the upcoming PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup playoff events will surely have an effect on who heads to France come the end of September.
While we anxiously await the final rosters, let’s take a look back at teams from the past. For today’s list I looked at the past 16 Ryder Cups—dating back to 1987—and identified the 20 golfers (10 per side) whom I would consider lucky to have ever participated in a Ryder Cup.
It’s not like these were bad golfers, but their names sort of stick out like sore thumbs when placed next to the greats of America and Europe. Sometimes, however, these players surprised everyone while at the event—if a mediocre golfer gets hot at the right time, anything can happen.
Furthermore, almost all of the players who appear here played their way onto the team, so who am I to say they should have never played in a Ryder Cup? We're just having some fun here, after all.
Without further ado, here are the 10 worst players from the U.S. and 10 worst from Europe to have represented their side at the Ryder Cup since 1987:
20 J.B. Holmes (USA, 2008, 2016)
Kentuckian J.B. Holmes actually found his way onto two Ryder Cup teams, the first in 2008 and most recently in 2016. The U.S. was victorious both times, and Holmes was instrumental in both wins, earning 2.5 points for the Yanks in ’08, and a point in the ’16 edition.
That said, Holmes didn’t automatically qualify for either of the Ryder Cups he participated in, and he only got to play because he was a captain’s pick in each.
He’s popular among his countrymen on tour—which is probably why he was chosen by captain Davis Love III in 2016 over a guy like Bubba Watson, who's notoriously not very friendly.
19 Stephen Gallacher (Europe, 2014)
The European teams have been just a tad shallower than the U.S. at the Ryder Cup over the years, and Stephen Gallacher was one of Captain Paul McGinley’s picks for the European team in 2014. The Europeans were victorious in 2014, but that had little to do with Gallacher’s performance.
Gallacher ended the week as the only team member to fail to record at least one point for Europe, as he and Ian Poulter fell 5&4 to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, and then he lost his singles match against Phil Mickelson on Sunday. He was fighting above his weight class, plain and simple.
18 Boo Weekley (USA, 2008)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Boo Weekley, simply based on his name. I’ve recently discovered that his real name is Thomas, however, which is a fine name but does nothing for me. Nonetheless, I feel like Thomas “Boo” Weekley is one of the weaker U.S. reps to ever play at the Ryder Cup.
To be fair here, Weekley was playing some of the best golf of his career during this time period, and he actually earned the eighth and final auto-entry into the Ryder Cup. Furthermore, despite his name looking a little out of place on the stacked USA roster, he earned 2.5 points for the U.S. en route to their 16.5-11.5 win.
17 David Gilford (Europe, 1991, 1995)
David Gilford participated in two Ryder Cups for the Europeans; the first was in 1991, when his side lost to the U.S. by just one point, and Gilford struggled in that competition, earning just half a point.
He fared better in 1995, earning three points en route to a Team Europe victory.
On the whole, Gilfrod wasn’t exactly an all-star golfer, ever. His best finish in a Major was T-24 at the 1995 Masters, a tournament he only qualified for twice. The only Major he participated in more than three times was The Open Championship, and that had more to do with his passport than his playing ability.
16 Brett Wetterich (USA, 2006)
Brett Wetterich played his best golf during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and that's when he qualified for six of the eight Majors he played in during his career. His hot streak earned him the eighth and final spot on the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team, making him one of the least-accomplished players to ever participate at the event.
Wetterich performed exactly as you’d expect, too, as he earned zero points for the U.S.. The Europeans won the 2006 Ryder Cup rather handily, posting am 18.5 to 9.5 win. The 9-point margin tied for the biggest margin in Ryder Cup history, and Wetterich fell off a cliff shortly after.
15 Oliver Wilson (Europe, 2008)
Oliver Wilson is another example of a guy who got hot at just the right time, and as a result it earned him a spot on the 2008 Ryder Cup European team. Wilson clinched the final qualifying spot on captain Nick Faldo’s team, but the captain’s picks (Ian Poulter and Paul Casey) are much better golfers, overall, than Wilson.
The Europeans were trying to win their fourth consecutive Ryder Cup, but it was not to be. Wilson was one of seven Europeans who failed to record more than a single point, and the U.S. broke the streak and emerged the 16.5-11.5 victors.
14 Chip Beck (USA, 1989, 1991, 1993)
It probably seems weird that I’m putting Chip Beck on this list, as he’s actually participated in three Ryder Cups—1989, 1991, and 1993. He actually was playing well enough at the time to earn his spot in two of these three years (1989 and 1993), and he was a captain’s pick in 1991. He was popular on tour throughout his career.
The U.S. emerged the victors in the latter two of these competitions, and they actually played to a rare tie in 1989, but the Europeans retained the Cup having won it outright in 1987.
Beck played well in the ’89 and ’93 editions, but managed just a single point in the 1991 competition.
13 David Howell (2004, 2006)
David Howell is one of those golfers that just never seemed to take that next step to greatness. He flirted with it in the mid-2000s, though. Playing the best golf of his career, he earned spots on both the 2004 and 2006 European Ryder Cup squads, which just so happen to be two of the biggest European wins in Ryder Cup history.
The Europeans won both competitions by a count of 18.5-9.5, matching the all-time record. Howell earned just one point for his team in 2004, but he stepped it up in 2006 and put up 2.5 points for team Europe, cementing his Ryder Cup legacy. He slowly dissipated from elite competitions afterwards.
12 Ken Green (USA, 1989)
The 1989 Ryder Cup famously ended in a draw for just the second time in history, and it is also the only edition that Ken Green qualified for. Green qualified in the eighth spot for the U.S. in 1989, and he ended up earning two points for the U.S. on route to the draw.
Green has since seen his share of adversity. He lost his leg in an automobile accident in 2009, but vowed to return to professional golf after the crash, and he delivered on that promise. Green lost his Sunday singles match, but managed to win a few four-balls when paired with Mark Calcavecchia.
11 Ronan Rafferty (Europe, 1989)
The 1989 Ryder Cup just seems to have a lot of relative nobody’s on both sides, and for the next entry we head to the European side. Shockingly, Ronan Rafferty earned more Ryder Cup points than any other European golfer ahead of the 1989 edition, making him the #1 seed on team Europe.
It’s pretty surprising that a guy who earned the top seed in 1989 wasn’t good enough to make either the 1987 or the 1991 squads, but it’s true.
We know the ’89 edition of the Ryder Cup ended up in a tie, but Rafferty struggled a bit as the top seed, going 1-2-0 and earning just a single point for the European side.
10 Chris Riley (USA, 2004)
There are a surprising amount of professional golfers who only stay relevant for two or three years, and Chris Riley fits that bill. The U.S. born Riley qualified for just one Ryder Cup, which obviously coincided with his three-year run of solid golf from 2003 to 2005.
Riley grabbed the 10th and final spot on the team, and it’s possible he wouldn’t have ever played in a Ryder Cup if the rule had changed prior to ’04 (there are now four captain’s picks rather than two, and only the top eight point-getters automatically qualify). The U.S. got smoked, and Riley managed 1.5 points in the 18.5-9.5 loss.
9 Jarmo Sandelin (Europe, 1999)
The final Ryder Cup of the 20th century is now referred to as “The Battle of Brookline,” and it’s historically one of the tightest Ryder Cups ever. The U.S. won by a count of 14.5-13.5, but as a team they were lambasted in the media, accused of being unsportsmanlike on a number of occasions.
The U.S. golfers dominated the world rankings at the time, as only four Europeans ranked higher than the lowest-ranked U.S. representative on the team that year.
Sweden's Jarmo Sandelin was ranked 73rd overall, and he is probably one of the least-accomplished players to ever vie for the Ryder Cup.
8 Vaughn Taylor (USA, 2006)
Vaughn Taylor had a few years where he was flirting with elite status, but he peaked at number 37 on the world rankings, so nothing special. Out of 14 career appearances at Majors, Vaughn’s top finish was a tie for 10th, and he missed the cut in nine of them.
The U.S. got right spanked at the 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland, possibly still feeling the effects of karma after their disgusting display at the 1999 Ryder Cup. Taylor lost his singles match against Henrik Stenson and halved his four-ball match to finish with half a point for the U.S.
7 Philip Walton (Europe, 1995)
Ireland's Philip Walton only qualified for a Major that wasn’t the Open Championship three times in his career, so needless to say he was never really near elite status as a pro. All three of those qualifications came during the 1995 and 1996 seasons, which is when he also squeaked onto the 1995 Ryder Cup squad for Europe.
Walton was the 10th seed for team Europe, and he earned a single point for the Europeans over the weekend in his singles match against Jay Haas on Sunday (seen above celebrating that big win). That proved to be a clutch point in the end, as the Europeans won by a score of 14.5-13.5.
6 Andy Bean (USA, 1987)
Andy Bean was one of those guys who was just a step behind the elite golfers throughout the 1980s, and he was rewarded in 1987 with the opportunity to represent his nation at the Ryder Cup.
It was actually the second of his career, but the 1987 edition was when he was on the downswing of his career and he barely made the squad, being the 10th qualifier.
Despite being one of the lesser-known players to compete for the U.S. over the years, Bean wasn’t out of place at the tournament. He earned two points for the U.S. in a losing effort, as the European bested USA by a score of 15-13.
5 Phillip Price (Europe, 2002)
It’s fair to say that Phillip Price was never a real threat at any of the Major championships during his career, but he did earn a spot on the 2002 Ryder Cup European squad, earning the 10th most points among European-born players leading up to the match-play tournament.
Again, Price may have never had the opportunity to play if the qualifying rules had already changed, but they hadn’t yet and now Price is a Ryder Cup champion, thanks to Europe’s 15.5 to 12.5 win. Price went 1-1-0 over the weekend, earning a single point in his only Ryder Cup appearance. He beat Phil Mickelson 3 & 2 in the singles match on Sunday, so kudos where it’s due.
4 Jeff Overton (USA, 2010)
A strong showing at the 2010 Open Championship (T-11) helped Jeff Overton qualify for the Ryder Cup later that year. He had the 7th most points when it came time to name the team, meaning he qualified on merit alone.
Overton’s career among golf’s elite was brief, as to this day he’s participated in just 10 Major tournaments, and played in all four of them just one season (2011). Nonetheless, Overton carried his weight in the losing effort for the U.S., earning two points for USA. Even with Overton’s contributions, the Europeans came out on top 14.5 to 13.5.
3 Pierre Fulke (Europe, 2002)
Showing up here at number 3 on the list we have Sweden's Pierre Fulke, whose one and only appearance at the Ryder Cup came in 2002. He’s another guy who capitalized on a strong season and just snuck in on qualifying, but his career as a whole didn’t see much success.
While the Europeans ended up emerging the victors, it was more despite of Fulke’s efforts than because of them.
In his two matches over the weekend, Fulke managed a half a point, which tied him with Niclas Fasth and Jesper Parnevik for fewest points earned for Europe at the tournament.
2 Dan Pohl (USA, 1987)
Dan Pohl’s another golfer who had some decent showings throughout the 1980s, but simply never managed to take that next step up to join the elites. He had pretty successful seasons in 1986 and 1987, though, and that earned him enough points to crack the U.S. roster that year at the Ryder Cup.
Team captain Jack Nicklaus sent Pohl out three times over the course of the week, but Pohl was only able to earn a single point—playing with Hal Sutton in the Friday morning foursomes. Pohl lost his second match the same day, a four-ball against Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam, and he lost his Sunday singles match to Howard Clark.
1 Andrew Coltart (Europe, 1999)
We return to the Battle of Brookline for the final entry on this here list. Andrew Coltart had been playing some decent golf heading into the 1999 Ryder Cup, and while he fell just a few points shy of qualifying automatically, captain Mark James was sold and made Coltart one of his two captain’s picks.
The Europeans lost to the U.S. by a score of 14.5-13.5, and Coltart was at the center of some controversy. An U.S. course marshal was accused of concealing Coltart’s ball after he fired it into some trouble, ultimately costing Coltart a stroke and, subsequently, the hole.