Ryder Cup side shaping up nicely, says Ian Poulter
Europe’s Medinah hero believes McGinley will be happy players are running into form
Ian Poulter of England during the pro-Am of the 2014 Volvo China Open at Genzon Golf Club yesterday in Shenzhen, China. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
McGinley has often stated he will not be afraid to have rookies in his team for Gleneagles as Europe look to defend the trophy and secure an eighth win in the past 10 contests.
But as things stand Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson are the only rookies occupying automatic qualifying places, with Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson filling the other seven. McGinley will name his three wild cards on September 2.
“There is a long way to go,” said Poulter, Europe’s talisman during the Miracle of Medinah two years ago. “I think Paul McGinley will be very pleased to see a lot of the top players and the guys from the last team starting to come into form at this time of the year.
“There are a lot of big events left to go and you tend to see the world-class players performing at their best in the majors and the biggest tournaments.
“Luke Donald’s playing great, Sergio is playing great and Lee Westwood has just won (in Malaysia on Sunday). I think the team will take shape over the summer and come September there will be two great teams fighting to get their hands on that fabulous trophy.”
Poulter admits he is yet to find top form in 2014, but feels his best is not too far away after a top-20 finish at Augusta National.
“There were a few encouraging signs after the Masters,” he added. “I had a bit of a strange start to the year in the sense that I didn’t really know what I was doing with my swing for a while, which is unlike me, but I seem to have figured that out and have started to play some really good golf.
“I am still making the odd costly mistake recently so the results haven’t reflected how well I have been playing but I am looking forward to keeping the improvements coming at the Volvo China Open. ”
World number three Stenson has also made a slow start to the season after his record-breaking exploits in 2013 and the Swede will also have to overcome a bout of flu at Genzon Golf Club.
The 38-year-old, who became the first man to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season last year, pulled out of the pre-tournament pro-am and said: “I am still a bit weak after spending the last 36 hours in bed, but I am slowly getting there and hopefully I can rest up and drink lots of fluids and be a bit better tomorrow and be ready to play.
“In terms of my start to the year, there has been a little hangover from last year after so much success and then all the resulting commitments that come off the course. I have only really had a two-week break from it all and it has been tough to kick-start a new season when you are quite low on energy. But other than that I am right on track.
“I didn’t have a great start to the season last year so I am in the same position as I was going into the summer. I played pretty well at the Masters without nailing it, but I am happy with the game. I didn’t plan on having a virus for the 20th Volvo China Open, but I am here and will do the best I can.”
Reigning US PGA champion Jason Dufner is also in the field in Shenzhen after deciding to play more tournaments around the world following his triumph at Oak Hill last year.
“You look at Henrik and Ian and they have played around the world their whole careers, not just Europe but all over the world and so many continents,” the American said.
“We are spoiled in the States because it is so easy on us, but I think being a top professional you have to be more of a global player.”
China Open: The Lowdown
Course: Genzon Golf Club, Shenzen
Prize money: €389,150 to winner.
Length: 7,145 yards Par 72 Field 156.
On television: Live on Sky Sports from 6.30am.
Time difference: Ch ina six hours ahead of Ireland.
Course overview: Since it became a European tour event in 2005 there has been no less than seven different venues for this tournament. Genzon is the eight. Water proliferates here along with trees and rough. The par threes are tough – three of the four are more than 200 yards long. There are four accessible par fives and three short par fours.
Weather forecast: Fine conditions expected for round one, with a mixture of sunshine and light showers with a light breeze from Friday on.
Suitable player profile: Good strikers of the ball with tee-to-green belief
Irish in action: Peter Lawrie; Damien McGrane; Gareth Maybin; Michael Hoey; Shane Lowry.