Ryder Cup: 5 wild-card candidates for Euros

Robert Rock plays a shot during the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Robert Rock plays a shot during the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Two years ago, Edoardo Molinari came out of nowhere to force his way onto the European Ryder Cup team. Molinari didn’t make the team on merit, but he won the last counting event - the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles - to go with a victory in the Scottish Open, and there was no way Colin Montgomerie could ignore him for a wild-card pick.

Molinari isn’t the first to come out of the pack to force his way into a European Ryder Cup team. Remember Phillip Price, Jarmo Sandelin, Miguel Angel Martin and Oliver Wilson?

It will be the same this year. Expect someone you don’t expect to make this year’s European team. Here are five outsiders to consider:

• • •

Robert Rock

Seems a bit strange to be calling him an outsider considering he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi and came out on top, but who outside the European Tour had heard of him before that? It’s not long ago that Rock was teaching handicap golfers at Swingers Golf Centre in Lichfield, England how to cure their slices. He got his big break by playing well in PGA regional events in the British Midlands. It got him a start in a couple of European Tour events and he pushed on from there. He could push on into the Ryder Cup team, to give hope to driving-range pros everywhere.

• • •

Anders Hansen

The word “gritty” might have been made for the Danish pro. Watch Hansen on the driving range at any European Tour event at you’d probably walk away unimpressed. However, he’s a money-making machine. The 39-year-old has won the European Tour’s flagship PGA Championship twice (2002 and 2007) and the 2009 Joburg Open. The former University of Oklahoma player has earned just under €11 million since joining the Euro Tour in 1996. Hansen won’t be scared of any American player he goes up against if he makes the team to travel to Chicago.

• • •

Nicolas Colsaerts

I was at the European Tour Q-School in 2000 when 18-year-old Colsaerts became the second youngest player to get a card. He finished fifth. He impressed back then with his length off the tee and seemed destined for success. He lost his way in the years that followed, but finally broke through last year when he won the China Open. He’s still young at 29 to make an impact on Tour, and has yet to reach his full potential.

• • •

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

Cabrera-Bello lost in the final of the 2001 British Boys’ Championship to Pablo Martin. Cabrera-Bello was 17 at the time and Spain’s No. 1 junior. Of course we all know where Martin went from there. So Cabrera-Bello was somewhat overshadowed by Martin’s success. However, even at age 17 when he lost that final at Ganton Golf Club in England, it was clear to me he was a good player. He’s proved that with two European Tour wins. His second came in this year’s Dubai Desert Classic and pushed him into Ryder Cup reckoning. He could be another dark horse to make this year’s team.

• • •

Simon Dyson

Dyson is another player you look at on the range and don’t think much. I first saw him play in the 1999 Walker Cup and thought he was bit of a lightweight. He’s proved me wrong. He’s got the absolute most out of his talent since he turned pro. He’s a six-time European Tour winner and has become a very consistent player. He had two wins last year and two in 2009. Don’t be surprised if he makes his Ryder Cup debut this year.

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