The Ryder Cup is several months away, but captain Darren Clarke would do well to ask the team tailor to measure out Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan. With their performance in the Dubai Desert Classic, these two have proven once again that they would be great fits for the European team uniform.
Not only do they seem a shoo-in for selection – Willett is ranked 20th in the world and expected to move to inside the top-15 after his win at Emirates Golf Club on Sunday, while Sullivan is up to 37 and improving each week – they also appear to have the perfect attitude for a competition that is as unique and as passion-filled as the Ryder Cup.
In this win, and his dogged pursuit of Rory McIlroy throughout the 2015 season, Willett has shown time and again he is like a pitbull terrier – he never lets go. That’s an amazing trait for any Ryder Cup star to have.
At the 2015 DP World Tour Championship, Willett had every reason to be peeved with the situation he was in.
The European Tour No. 1 crown, going by the letter of the law, should have been his by that time. Rory McIlroy, who was leading the Race to Dubai, was not in line to play the DP World Tour Championship because he had not played the mandatory number of events before that.
But the Tour, as a special case, permitted McIlroy to tee up in Dubai despite playing one event less. The decision may seem fair – especially as McIlroy had missed out on three tournaments that would have counted towards the Race to Dubai because of his injury – but it was unprecedented, and Willett was the one to lose the most.
It wasn’t just the financial loss – which was immense (just the difference in the bonus pool distribution for finishing first and second was $875,000) – but also the fact that he will have to wait to be called the European No. 1. But Willett has smiled through it all, and battled hard with McIlroy at Jumeirah Golf Estates before the Northern Irishman pulled away on the final day.
Sullivan is a similar character when it comes to perseverance, but is even more useful in the team room because there is never a dull moment when he is around. A compulsive talker, the man from Nuneaton honestly believes he is living the dream.
He was taking care of the inventory in an Asda shop less than five years ago, and today, he is mixing with the finest names in golf and making millions. What’s there about life that is not worth celebrating?
And he may be the best putter amongst the current crop of Europeans. There is nobody, not even Ian Poulter, who can make better clutch putts than Sullivan right now.
While the performance of these two players, who will be making their Ryder Cup debut if they qualify for Hazeltine, will surely delight Clarke, he will be concerned over the forms of veterans Poulter and Lee Westwood, and to a certain extent Graeme McDowell.
All three missed the cut in the events they played last week. While they do have a lot of time to find their touch, it is extremely important that experienced players like them also make it to the team on their own.
Clarke has just three captain’s picks and he should not find himself in a position where he has to make obvious choices.
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