IT’S TIME for all the talking to stop. The Made in Demark officially brings the curtain down on the qualifying process for Europe’ Ryder Cup team and that is reflected in the strength of the field, with several players just outside the automatic qualifying positions looking to make a late move to convince Thomas Bjorn that they are worthy of one of his four wild cards.
Among those on the outside looking in are Matthew FitzpatrickEddie PepperellThomas PietersMartin KaymerMatt Wallace and Paul Dunneand all of them are in the field. Despite winning two majors and playing a crucial role in past European victories, Kaymer will know that even if he wins by 20 strokes this week he has no chance of making the team. When at his best there are few better golfers in the world. Sadly, those days are now few and far between. It is almost impossible to fathom that a man who has won the US PGA and US Open now finds himself ranked 129th in the world and outside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai. He finished eighth in the Italian Open and three weeks later was second in the BMW International Open. It looked like he might finally be about to turn things around, but he then missed the cut at the French Open, Scottish Open and Open Championship.
Back he came, however, opening the Nordea Masters with two rounds of 67. He looked magnificent in doing so. But rounds of 75 and 73 saw him tumble down the leaderboard. Thankfully, at 33 years of age, Kaymer still has time on his side to work things out. But it remains a mystery that a man who has achieved so much and who swings the club so beautifully can find himself playing so much dross.
In truth, Bjorn is going to find himself spoilt for choice. Thorbjorn Olesen curly occupies the eighth, and final, automatic spot and he is also in the field, determined that nobody is going to steal his place. As things stand, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey are all banking on a wild card. Poulter, Stenson and Casey are all occupied with the FedEx Cup playoffs and could well still play themselves into the team but Garcia’s season is effectively over.
So the harsh reality for Messrs Fitzpatrick, Pepperell, Pieters, Kaymer, Wallace and Dunne is that no matter what they achieve in Denmark, the chances are that they will not be heading for Paris with Bjorn’s team. If we assume that Bjorn will definitely pick Poulter, Casey and Garcia, the last place in the team may still be up for grabs and Pieters may be the one who might feel that he can still force himself in ahead of Stenson. This tournament was only played for the first time in 2014, when it was won by Marc Warren, of Scotland. England’s David Horsey claimed the title in 2015 and American Julian Suri won 12 months ago.
But it was in 2016 that Pieters showed what he was made of. Needing to win to make Darren Clarke’s European team, the tall Belgian did precisely that and went on to be the star performer in what was a poor Ryder Cup for Europe. The team were soundly beaten, but Pieters scored four points, which was an astonishing performance for a rookie. He was joined on that team by Fitzpatrick, who was also making his debut. The Englishman arrived at Hazeltine without his best form and struggled to make an impact, but he later announced that he has learnt a great deal from the experience and was determined to make the team again for the match in Paris. He has shown some flashes of his brilliant short game but has not looked like winning on either side of the Atlantic and has managed only two top-10 finishes on the European Tour this season. Even with a victory in Denmark, it may well be that Fitzpatrick misses out.
Pepperell’s transformation has been remarkable. Having lost his tour card two years ago, he won his first European Tour title in 2018, finished second at the Scottish Open and came within a whisker of causing a huge upset at The Open at Carnoustie. Like Pieters, he probably needs to win in Denmark to have any realistic chance of making Bjorn’s team.
Wallace is one of the most underrated players on the European Tour. A relatively late developer, he won the Portugal Open in 2017 and has added the Hero India Open, in which he defeated Andrew “ Beef” Johnston in a playoff, and BMW International Open in 2018, as well as finishing third at the Volvo China Open. He has won events at every level of the professional game and now looks right at home at this level. Wallace enjoyed a Enjoyed a stellar amateur career, winning the 2011 Czech Amateur and Tallihade and Argentine Amateur in 2011 before turning professional in 2012. He broke a number of records when he won five times in five consecutive starts on the Alps Tour.
When Dunne fended off the challenge of Rory McIlroy to win the British Masters at Close House 12 months ago in such sensation fashion few would have bet against him kicking on and securing one of the eight automatic spots, but golf is a tough game and Dunne has not quite done enough, despite a runner-up finish at the Spanish Open. He is a fabulous ball striker and the tougher the course, the better he seems to play. He came close to winning on the PGA Tour earlier in the year before finishing eighth at the Houston Open.
Made in Demark Tips
Thomas Pieters. Only victory will do
Eddie Pepperell. Can he overtake Thorbjorn Olesen?
Paul Dunne. Wonderful golfer
Made in Demark Fantasy Picks
Thomas Pieters. Desperate to make it to Le Golf National
Eddie Pepperell. Remarkable transformation
Paul Dunne. Ready to win again
Matt Wallace. Hugely underrated
Matt Fitzpatrick. Disappointing season
Martin Kaymer. What on earth has gone wrong?
Danny Willett. Great to see him coming back to his best
Thorbjørn Olesen. Looking to clinch Ryder Cup berth
Scott Hend. Big-hitting Australian
Jonas Blixt. Failed to live up to his potential
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