After the Made In Denmark tournament, which concluded yesterday at Silkeborg, we know eight members of the European team to contest the Ryder Cup at Golf National, just outside Paris, at the end of this month. These are Tommy Fleetwood (England), Tyrrell Hatton (England), Rory McIlroy (Ireland), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Alex Noren (Sweden), Thorbjorn Olesen (Denmark), Jon Rahm (Spain) and Justin Rose (England). Only McIlroy, Molinari and Rose have played in the match before. The European captain, Thomas Bjorn, will announce the final four places for his team on Wednesday. So who will be in and who will be out?
If I were a betting man – and my William Hill account testifies to the fact that I am a pretty useless one – I would suggest that the men most likely to be in will be Ian Poulter, past master of Ryder Cup heroics; Paul Casey, the seventh highest-ranked European in the world; Henrik Stenson, the Open champion in 2016; and Thomas Pieters, who partnered McIlroy so successfully in the match two years ago. I think Bjorn will figure five rookies is enough already. If he doesn’t then Matt Wallace, who won yesterday for his third European Tour title of the season, has clearly had a stellar year and is manifestly a man in form, so why not him?
Lee Westwood, who lost out to Wallace after a playoff, dismissed his own case for receiving a wild card by saying: “I’ve played in 10 matches and I think there are candidates more worthy of a pick than me.” Which point brings to mind another golfer. Sergio Garcia won the Masters 18 months ago. His Ryder Cup record shows 18 wins and seven halved matches from 45 outings. After the match at Hazeltine two years ago, he smilingly said of the raucous American crowds: “Well, after that I definitely know I have not won a major championship!” Within seven months he had. But since and including this year’s Masters, in his past 12 tournaments he has missed seven cuts and only had one top-10 finish, albeit that was at Golf National in the French Open. Be that as it may, a personal view is that he should tell/have told Bjorn not to consider him. The Ryder Cup is a severe crucible of competition, not a place to try to rediscover your game.
Across the Atlantic, Jim Furyk’s known eight are Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson. Only Fowler has not won a major; of the European eight, the only major men so far are the three who won’t be Ryder Cup rookies. Furyk announces three of his four captain’s picks tomorrow, after the Dell Championship which finishes tonight, and one more a week today after the BMW Championship. I’d say it would be utterly astonishing if the three he selected tomorrow were not a trio who almost qualified as of right: Bryson DeChambeau, who won the Northern Trust event last weekend and might very well win tonight; Phil Mickelson, whose Ryder Cup record is exactly the same as Garcia’s; and Tiger Woods, who extraordinarily has played in seven matches but only once been on the winning side.
If those aren’t the three Furyk declares tomorrow, I’d suggest that he was looking for a reason to omit whomever he doesn’t mention. (His 12th man would presumably be someone who plays exceptionally well this week and/or next; Tony Finau is the likely favourite right now.) Despite his lacklustre RyderCup record, Woods has to be a cert, not least after his recent strong runs at the Open and the USPGA Championship. To leave him out would be ultra-controversial and that really isn’t Furyk’s style. And he’s not stupid either.
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