Trying to make sense of Europe's Ryder Cup wildcard optionsAugust 26, 2018 Opinion
As is the case every two years someone is going to be disappointed by the captain's picks. Mark Townsend looks at the runners and riders
It’s that time of the year again as a variety of points and possible finishing positions are thrown at us as we try to make sense of how the rest of the season is going to play out.
For most of the Ryder Cup qualifying process most of us are pretty casual about our favourite players turning it around and making the team on merit. And then it slowly dawns on us that there are only a handful of weeks left and time and playing opportunities have pretty much run out.
What have we learnt from this weekend is that Alex Noren, winner of this year’s French Open, is guaranteed to make his debut despite missing the cut at the Northern Trust.
We also know – relying heavily on the Twitter account of Nosferatu – that Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Ian Poulter cannot make the team ‘on merit’ unless they play in Denmark.
Had Casey rejoined the European Tour at the start of the qualifying period rather than in October last year he would have been around 50 points ahead of Thorbjorn Olesen on the World Points list and comfortably on the team already.
But he didn’t and so he is now sweating on Thomas Bjorn returning him to a side he last played on in, incredibly, a decade ago.
Sergio Garcia didn’t play the Northern Trust, having missed out on the FedEx Cup Play-offs, while Henrik Stenson gave his elbow a rest so, with there being a Monday finish at this week’s Dell Technologies Championship, he will also need a pick.
Who knows what is going to happen this week in Denmark. For the record Olesen, Matt Fitzpatrick and Eddie Pepperell have entered and they can still change things around – but it seems that Cabrera Bello, for one, won’t be making a special trip to Aarhus to nudge his way onto the team.
Yes! The scenarios for next week are pretty simple:
— Nosferatu (@VC606) August 26, 2018
A third-round 77 dropped the Spaniard down the field and in a tie for 61st but there has been no pressure from his captain to make the trip back to Europe.
“I spoke with [Bjorn] early Monday asking him advice about scheduling and his recommendation was just play this week [at the Northern Trust] and play as good as a I can and then we’ll see,” Cabrera Bello said.
Speaking after his final round in the States Cabrera Bello added that his plans were unlikely to change.
“I haven’t [made a decision on Denmark]. I don’t think I’ll play,” he said.
You might jump to the conclusion that he has already been confirmed a spot as, if he wasn’t to get a pick and didn’t play in Denmark, it would seem a very strange decision to concentrate on his FedEx Cup progress.
In my mind, and probably everyone else’s, Stenson is a banker for one of the picks, as is Poulter. They’re both Ryder Cup powerhouses and it would be ludicrous, barring an injury concern for the Swede, not to include either of them.
Which leaves, assuming nothing else changes in the automatic slots, probably two picks from three – from Garcia, Cabrera Bello and Casey.
Again it’s finger-in-the-wind time but Cabrera Bello’s inclusion might be good news for Garcia having won one and halved the other – against Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth no less – together at Hazeltine before the unbeaten Cabrera Bello took down Jimmy Walker in the singles.
So one part of your brain is now telling you that Cabrera Bello is a better prospect than Casey or Garcia while the logical part says he misses out.
Let’s go with Cabrera Bello, and presume that he’s had the nod from Bjorn, and round out our quartet with the World No. 25 and his countryman Garcia for reasons we discussed last week.
Which leaves the World No. 15 Casey back on the sidelines. A winner on the PGA Tour in March, second at the Travelers in June but then we’ve got nothing Ryder Cup form wise, unlike the others, to fall back on since 2008.
And, away from the brilliant ball striking and everything else that can so impressive about his game, there’s also no course form, again unlike the others, with his only visit to Le Golf National since 2004 resulting in a pair of 80s though that came in the middle of a horror run of from following his dislocated shoulder.
Whatever the outcome of next week it’s the biennial head-muncher for the captain though maybe not on the scale of other years – Messrs Molinari, Rose, Hatton, Fleetwood, Rahm, McIlroy and Noren will definitely be there in France – it’s up to another four days of golf and Bjorn’s judgment as to who joins them.