Euro Ryder Cup squad could have embarrassment of riches
With his victory at The Players Championship, Martin Kaymer pushed his way onto the European Ryder Cup team. That’s good news for Europe’s chances of a third successive Ryder Cup victory, and fifth win in six matches.
But then the news is pretty much all good right now for Europe’s chances in the biennial match.
Kaymer takes up the ninth and final position at this point. If European captain Paul McGinley were naming his team today, he’d be calling out the names of Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Thomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Kaymer.
McGinley has three captain’s picks this year. Those three right now no doubt would be used on Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell.
The above would make a pretty potent 12-man team. Dubuisson and Donaldson would be the only rookies. Yet McGinley probably won’t need to hide them in his lineup as previous captains have done with rookies.
Dubuisson, a Frenchman, has lived up to the expectations of his amateur days over recent months. He ended last year with victory in the Turkish Airlines Open, his first European Tour title, finished third in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and reached the final of the WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship.
The eccentric Dubuisson proved he has the match-play prowess to handle the Ryder Cup with his display against Jason Day in the Accenture. Some of his escapes from the desert were similar to those of Seve Ballesteros. He wouldn’t fear anyone on the American team.
Neither would Donaldson. He has shed the dreaded “journeyman” tag in recent years with a couple of big victories: the 2012 Irish Open and last year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He hasn’t looked out of place against even stronger opposition this year, with a second-place finish in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and 14th in his Masters debut.
Dubuisson's strength lies in his innate talent, but Donaldson relies on his putter. He’s very competent with the short stick, and that always helps in a Ryder Cup.
Bjorn hasn’t played in the match since 2004. He is set to make his third appearance after first making the team in 1997. Two Ryder Cups is scant reward for his outstanding talent.
The Dane’s renaissance stems from his time as vice captain to Colin Montgomerie in 2010 at Celtic Manor. Although Bjorn was happy to help marshal Monty’s men, deep down he knew he was good enough to be playing alongside them.
“When I walked around that Ryder Cup, I knew that at my best I’m easily competitive with these guys,” Bjorn said.
Thus began a renewed desire to make the team. He would fit right in. As one of the European Tour’s most senior figures – he serves as chairman of the powerful tournament committee – he would act as one of McGinley’s on-course leaders.
The Irishman is not short on those, as the list above proves.
Of course, much can change over the coming months, with three major championships, a WGC event and big European tournaments to be held before the team is chosen after the Italian Open. Expect others to force their way into the side with good results.
Those on the fringes with realistic chances include Masters runner-up Jonas Blixt, Joost Luiten, Francesco Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Gonzalo Fernandez Castano and Stephen Gallacher.
McGinley won’t be complacent, but he’s sitting pretty right now with an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.