The qualification process to make Europe’s Ryder Cup team begins at this week’s Czech Masters.
And while we’re all looking forward to the ongoing joke for the first few weeks about how Adrian Otaegui is going to spearhead Europe’s attack in Paris, there is a serious competition to be played at the end of it. And European captain will be desperate to get the Samuel Ryder Trophy back from the Americans.
So here’s what the NCG team or Dan Murphy, Alex Perry, Mark Townsend, James Savage and Steve Carroll think will happen in the qualification process and at Le Golf National…
Surprise qualifier or captain’s pick
Dan: Not sure how much of a surprise this would really be but Bernd Wiesberger is improving by the year and looks to me like a man who could emerge as an acknowledged world-class performer.
Alex: Surely Thomas Bjorn isn’t going to emulate his predecessor Darren Clarke and pick his old pal Lee Westwood? He is, isn’t he? And how about a nice slice of Beef? That would fun now, wouldn’t it?
Mark: Graeme McDowell.
James: Alexander Levy.
Steve: Bernd Wiesberger is a four-time European Tour winner has the capacity to string a lot of good results together.
Surprise player to miss out
Dan: We have heard very little from Martin Kaymer this year and a lot of Europeans have gone past him on the world rankings.
Alex: Based on this year, I can’t see Martin Kaymer getting anywhere near the team. But then he was handed a pick by Clarke, too. Justin Rose needs to sort it out, as well, but he’ll make it.
Mark: Martin Kaymer, Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood, Matt Fitzpatrick, and – I can’t believe I’m writing this – Tommy Fleetwood.
James: Martin Kaymer, Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood.
Steve: Medinah seems like forever ago for Martin Kaymer.
Making their debut
Dan: Other than Jon Rahm, I strongly believe that Shane Lowry is the real deal and he would be a revelation in the Ryder Cup. He’s one of those players the crowd relate to and there would be plenty of emotion. I also think that Thorbjorn Olesen has a bit of a swagger about him and could thrive in this event.
Alex: Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren. And Thorbjorn Olesen must be a shoo-in with his Danish connection. I fancy Olesen to make a similar impact on the Ryder Cup that Thomas Pieters made last year.
Mark: Russell Knox, Alex Noren and Jon Rahm, obviously.
James: Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood, and Alexander Levy.
Steve: Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton.
Long shot to make the team
Dan: It adds a certain something when a home player makes the team so why not Alexander Levy, as the highest-ranked Frenchman. Then again, it didn’t exactly work out as planned for Stephen Gallacher at Gleneagles in 2014. I would love to see Danny Willett turn his game around next season. It’s saying something when you rate the previous season’s Masters champion as a long-shot for a Ryder Cup two-and-a-half years later but for a variety of reasons he has been wretched this season.
Alex: Jordan Smith needs to keep doing what he’s doing, but what a story that would be.
Mark: Bernd Wiesberger.
James: Jordan Smith.
Steve: Padraig Harrington is a future captain and has still got game.
The team I’d like to see
Dan: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey, Francesco Molinari, Thomas Pieters, Bernd Wiesberger, Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett.
Alex: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, me, my dad, my friend James, Mark Townsend, Eric Cantona, Ricky Gervais, Liam Gallagher, Ant & Dec, and Ian Poulter.
Mark: Robert Rock, Eddie Pepperell, James Heath, Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Southgate, James Morrison, Nicolas Colsaerts, Matteo Manassero, Padraig Harrington, Stuart Manley, Alejandro Canizares and Florian Fritsch.
James: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Alex Levy and Francesco Molinari.
Steve: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Alex Noren, Chris Wood, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Francesco Molinari, Thomas Pieters and Thorbjorn Olesen.
The team I expect to see
Dan: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ian Poulter and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Alex: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Thorbjorn Olesen, and Lee Westwood.
Mark: Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell, Russell Knox, Alex Noren, Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Thomas Pieters.
James: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Steve: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters and Tyrrell Hatton.
Europe’s top points scorer
Dan: Sergio Garcia very rarely lets us down at the Ryder Cup and is sure to be on the team and to play a prominent role.
Alex: Despite what I just said, a few short months after completing his Grand Slam at Augusta, Rory McIlroy will spearhead Europe to victory against a much-fancied young American side.
Mark: Rory McIlroy.
James: Henrik Stenson.
Steve: Jon Rahm looks very handy in matchplay.
Ryder Cup winners
Here’s the breakdown of the Europe team, as voted for by the NCG team:
5 votes: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren, Rafa Cabrera Bello
4 votes: Tommy Fleetwood
2 votes: Ian Poulter, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Knox, Matt Fitzpatrick
1 vote: Graeme McDowell, Tyrrell Hatton, Bernd Wiesberger, Lee Westwood