Jimenez, Luiten rally toward European Ryder spots
For good reason, the lovable Miguel Angel Jimenez is the story of the year, at least when it comes to European-based golfers. At 50, he’s winning on different continents and in different age categories. Before Bubba Watson took the Masters by storm, much of the buzz at Augusta National was rooted in Jimenez’s charge onto the leaderboard.
The fact that Jimenez poses a legitimate threat to make his fifth Ryder Cup team is intriguing stuff, but let the record show that the Spaniard isn’t the only one trying to script a Gleneagles surprise. There’s a diminutive 28-year-old Dutchman who also isn’t giving up hopes of being at the biennial affair.
“In Holland, everything is the Ryder Cup," Joost Luiten said. "Everybody is talking about it. We’ve never had a player in the Ryder Cup, so people are talking to to me every week. (They keep asking) 'Are you going to make the Ryder Cup? How do you plan on doing it?' (I tell them), ‘Guys, I’m just trying to play well every week and if I do, that hopefully will help me make it.' ”
With a little more than three months before the European team has to be finalized, loyalists no doubt are flashing brilliant smiles at the way the home team is taking shape. If the cutoff for qualification were today, the nine automatic names would be Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson from the European Points List, and Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald from the World Points List. Easy to believe then that Paul McGinley would in turn reach out to add Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, molding one dynamic and formidable team.
Ah, but sitting sixth on the European list is Jimenez, and you have to look only one spot down to find Luiten. Certainly, the unheralded Dutchman needn’t be told how close he is.
“I just have to be patient, and it might just take one or two more good weeks,” he said. “If I make it in, it’s huge.”
Luiten thought he was in store for a special week at the recent Players Championship. He sat 4 under through 36 holes, in good position, but an inexplicable third-round 82 meant he missed the 54-hole cut and, shockingly, was out the door. The thing is, Luiten showed his character. He didn’t carry the heartache over; instead, he finished fourth in the Spanish Open, and that ushered him into this week’s BMW PGA Championship in a much better frame of mind.
A three-time winner on the European Tour, Luiten plays aggressively and has shown steady improvement. He concedes he needs to begin putting together better tournaments in America, but so, too, is it important to tighten his bond to the European Tour. That explains why he accepted a spot into the recent EurAsia Cup.
“I wasn’t planning on playing, but then captain Paul McGinley phoned me and said, ‘I really want you on the team.’ I couldn’t really say no. If you get asked, you go.”
Luiten and his EurAsia team captain, Jimenez, were the only team members to win in singles. Although Asia staged a dramatic rally to come away with a tie, the Dutchman considered it a rewarding experience, which he hopes will be parlayed into a grander one at Gleneagles.
“It was good to show Paul McGinley that I played well, and hopefully I scored some points.”