Review of the season: A look at how Europe's elite came up short in 2021

Jon Rahm won the US Open and rose to World No.1 but it was a difficult season for most of Europe's star names.

No American golfer had ever won the season-long Race to Dubai (2009-present day) or topped the Order of Merit (1971-2008) until Collin Morikawa was crowned European No.1 at Sunday's DP World Tour Championship.

Morikawa was the runaway winner and, not only that, fellow American Billy Horschel finished in second place.

But, as well as their own excellence, another reason for the American 1-2 was that Europe's elite golfers collectively underperformed in the biggest scoring Race to Dubai tournaments in 2021.

The three World Golf Championship events went to Morikawa (Workday Championship), Horschel (Match Play) and Mexico's Abraham Ancer (St. Jude Invitational).

In the Majors, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama captured The Masters, Phil Mickelson rolled back the years to land the PGA Championship while Morikawa was a brilliant winner of the Open Championship at Royal St. George's.

Collin Morikawa holds aloft the Claret Jug
Collin Morikawa holds aloft the Claret Jug

Europe's one success in those seven key events was Jon Rahm, who bagged his first Major when landing June's US Open.

The next biggest money-spinners on the Race To Dubai are the four Rolex Series events but, once more, Europe's best were outperformed.

Morikawa won the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Horschel flew in to take victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and Australian Min Woo Lee held his nerve to win the Scottish Open.

The one Rolex Series success for Europe was Tyrrell Hatton's triumph in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Ryder Cup thrashing

Then, of course, there was the Ryder Cup. No money was up for grabs but it highlighted Europe's shortcomings.

The Europeans were on the wrong end of a record 19-9 scoreline at Whistling Straits as Team America gained revenge, and then some, for past beatings.

Much has been written as to why Europe crashed so badly but one simple view is that most of Padraig Harrington's team have underperformed to various levels this year.

Take a look at the following table. It features the top 14 Europeans on the current world rankings and includes all 12 who played in the Ryder Cup.

When comparing their current world ranking to how they looked at the end of 2020, the findings are fairly miserable.

Nine of Harrington's 12-man team have dropped down the rankings in 2021 while just two - Rahm and Viktor Hovland - have gone up. Sergio Garcia stayed the same.

European world rankings climb/fall

+5 Viktor Hovland

+1 Jon Rahm

-- Sergio Garcia

-2 Ian Poulter

-4 Rory McIlroy

-4 Paul Casey

-8 Matt Fitzpatrick

-10 Shane Lowry

-11 Tyrrell Hatton

-20 Lee Westwood

-21 Bernd Wiesberger

-23 Tommy Fleetwood

By contrast, seven of the 12 triumphant Americans occupy a higher position now than they did at the end of 2020.

Jordan Spieth ended 2020 at 82nd in the OWGR but is now 11th
Jordan Spieth ended 2020 at 82nd in the OWGR but is now 11th

The five who don't are currently ranked Nos. 3, 6, 7, 16 and 17 so their fall is relative.

Add in the USA having home advantage and it's pretty clear just what a difficult job Harington had.

Hope for the future

The bright news for Europe is that there are lots of encouraging moves being made further down the rankings.

Thomas Pieters, a star of the 2016 Ryder Cup, is on the move again: 84th at the end of 2020 to 72nd now.

Other notable big European movers are Seamus Power (429th to 70th), Challenge Tour sensation Marcus Helligkilde (646th to 80th), Guido Migliozzi (203rd to 95th) after his tied fourth in the US Open, Santiago Tarrio Ben (358th to 96th), JB Hansen (148th to 106th), Nicolai Hojgaard (527th to 109th) and Julien Brun (310th to 126th).

Add in the likes of Rasmus Hojgaard and Sam Horsfield (even though both dropped slightly this year) and European golfers can hope to make a much bigger impact over the next few years.

It's fascinating to think what Europe's Ryder Cup team could look like in 2023 (Marco Simone, Italy), 2025 (Bethpage Black, USA) and 2027 (Adare Manor, Ireland).

Exciting times await.

The problem, of course, is that the PGA Tour is loaded with young talent making rapid strides too.

READ MORE: Six takeaways from the 2021 LPGA season

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