With four months to go until the Ryder Cup team is named, Thomas Bjorn and his vice-captains will have plenty of selection headaches as they bid to name a strong team of 12 to face a dominant American side in Paris on September 28.
With eight players selected between European and World Points qualification systems, the remaining four slots will be down to the team management.
Here, we take a look at our 12 as it stands.
European Points: 3,096,447.8
Hugely impressive this season, with two third place finishes and one top-10. The Englishman currently tops the European points ahead of Rose, and could have been further ahead but for missing the cut three times in his last four tournaments. One of the most consistent on the tour, the 25-year-old has a class short game and the accurate ball striking ability to trouble the Americans on European soil.
European Points: 2,961,330.2
World Points: 270.14
The Englishman has the world No1 spot in his sights after his victory at the Fort Worth Invitational last week. The 37-year-old has been a crucial part of the Ryder Cup team for a decade now since making his debut in Valhalla in 2008. His partnership with Henrik Stenson took a hit in 2014, but their defeats were against the unstoppable Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed duo. Expect him to shine this year.
European Points: 2,155,802
World Points: 216.99
The Northern Irishman will be Europe’s leading figure when they depart for the French capital later this year. He looks fit and fresh since recovering from the rib injury that curtailed his 2017 season. Victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and second at the BMW PGA Championship last week proves his form is back close to his best. Will be a central player for Thomas Bjorn’s side in September.
European Points: 2,123,431
World Points: 152.61
After winning the BMW PGA Championship, the Italian moved into position to qualify for the Ryder Cup. He is now fourth in the European Points list, ahead of Jon Rahm and Ross Fisher, with the top four qualifying automatically later this season. The 35-year-old represented Europe in the successful 2010 and 2012 campaigns, famously playing Tiger Woods to a draw at Medinah six years ago.
European Points: 2,088,832.9
World Points: 248.36
Now ranked inside the world’s top four, the Spaniard has been a colossus since his breakthrough season in 2017. Currently occupies the qualifying places in the World Tour and is an absolute lock for his Ryder Cup debut. With stunning wins at the DP World Tour Championship, CareerBuilder Challenge and Spanish Open, the 23-year-old has the chance to be a key figure at Le Golf National later this summer.
European Points: 1,481,990.1
World Points: 164.04
The reigning European No1 collected more valuable ranking points after finishing fourth and seventh at the Honda Classic and The Players’ Championship in recent weeks. Has shown an ability to compete at the highest level, finishing fourth at the US Open, and needs to improve over the coming weeks to have any hope of making a debut.
European Points: 1,497,194
World Points: 155.71
The Swede may have missed out on the 2016 edition, but has shown over the last 12 months that he can shine against the best in the world. Clinched a second place finish at Farmer Insurance Open and third-place finishes at the Honda Classic, WGC Match Play and BMW PGA Championship to prove his solid all-round game and mental strength, both of which will make him an excellent partner when Europe go to battle later this year. The 35-year-old currently holds the eighth and final qualifying spot.
European Points: 1,671,446
World Points: 119.46
Aside from Rahm, the Sheffield native is the most promising player on the European Tour at the moment. The 23-year-old continues to make progress and possesses an accurate game ideal for the layout of the tight Parisian course. Although he is ranked 7th in the European Tour and ninth in the World Points, expect Fitzpatrick to close the year with a flourish before team selection in August.
Beat Jordan Spieth in the final day singles at Hazeltine having lost three of his previous four matches. Solid throughout 2017, but his form has dipped in recent months and is still winless this year. Although ranked outside the qualification places, it is certain Bjorn would use one of his wildcard picks to select the Gothenburg native. Imagine the prospect of Stenson and Noren lining up on the first at Le Golf national together?
The Englishman has struggled with a back injury in recent weeks but will be one of the hopefuls to secure a wildcard berth. At 40, his last appearance in the Ryder Cup was 10 years ago in 2008 but is a known inspirational presence on the course. His poor form has seen him slip out of the qualification places, but he has proven to be a trusted lieutenant to previous captains. Could get selected ahead of Sergio Garcia.
He knows how to perform under pressure and has enjoyed a bright start to the new season, with a win at the Houston Open and top six finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and WGC Match Play. The Hertfordshire native currently holds a qualification spot, but if his game drops, it is likely that Bjorn will call on the four-time Ryder Cup winner to inspire his side to success against a dominant American team.
Boosted his chances of a debut in his home country after winning the Trophee Hassan II last month. The 27-year-old also secured fourth place finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and Oman Open. Needs to stay consistent if he has any hope of closing the points gap. Has proven he can excel on the grand stage, and should warrant a pick from the captain if he fails to qualify.
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Italy’s Francesco Molinari finally got his hands on the BMW PGA Championship trophy as Rory McIlroy’s bid for a second title came up short.
Molinari carded a closing 68 to finish 17 under par and two shots ahead of playing partner McIlroy, with defending champion Alex Noren and Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard a shot further back.
Molinari, whose second place 12 months ago was his fifth top 10 at Wentworth in the last six years, began the day in a tie for the lead with McIlroy but quickly moved clear with birdies on the third, fourth and eighth and never looked like being caught until some late drama on the final hole.
Three ahead playing the 18th, Molinari’s third shot to the green almost span back into the water and his fourth left him facing five feet for par, with McIlroy 20 feet away for eagle.
However, McIlroy agonisingly left his attempt inches short and Molinari held his nerve to hole out for par, meaning he had dropped just two shots all week, the last coming on the 10th hole of the second round.
The impressive win will take the 35-year-old back inside the world’s top 20 and within sight of securing a third Ryder Cup appearance in September.
McIlroy had enjoyed a three-shot lead at halfway, but struggled to a 71 on Saturday and rescued a 70 on Sunday with birdies on the last two holes.
Former champion Rory McIlroy believes he needs to rediscover the carefree approach which led to his unlikely victory in the 2014 BMW PGA Championship to potentially emulate the best season of his career.
Victory at Wentworth four years ago came just days after a visibly upset McIlroy revealed he had called off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, the Northern Irishman admitting being inside the ropes had been his “sanctuary” during a turbulent week.
And while the four-time major winner, who married Erica Stoll in 2017, would clearly not wish for any similar personal heartache this week, he is well aware that 2014’s triumph was followed later that year by consecutive victories in the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA.
“I guess all you need is that spark or that catalyst,” McIlroy said. “I felt like my game was trending in the right direction in 2014, but didn’t quite have the win.
“On that Sunday I was seven shots behind going into the last day. I didn’t expect to win. I just wanted to go out and play a good final round.
“I think about that a lot because you’d love to go out and play with that mindset all the time, but that’s not life and we’re wired as human beings to be a bit more careful, to stay away from the water, don’t hit it in that bunker.
“I think that’s just the way we’re wired as humans and it’s a constant battle with yourself out on the course to try and get away from that and freewheel it and be a bit more confident in your decisions and make free golf swings.
“I’d love to go out and play that way every single time, but I don’t think that’s possible. I’d like to get to the point where the majority of the time you can play that way.
“But it did snowball from there (in 2014) and I got on to a nice little bit of a hot streak, and I’d love to be able to do something like that again.
“I’ve got a busy summer coming up. There’s a lot of big tournaments to play in, still got three major championships and the Ryder Cup and everything else. So yeah, maybe this could be the spark that gets that all going again.”
McIlroy’s 2018 campaign has hardly been a disaster thanks to an impressive victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and three other top-five finishes, but he has also missed three cuts and failed to complete the career grand slam after a disappointing final round in the Masters.
“The win at Bay Hill was great,” McIlroy added. “I think playing my way into the final group at Augusta was fantastic, as well, so they were real steps forward compared to, say, the last 18 months.
“I just feel like it’s been a little bit inconsistent. If I can just get my play a little bit more consistent and swing a little more consistently, that would be a step in the right direction.”