Thoughts turn to Wales Open as race for Ryder Cup places begins
Pádraig Harrington will not play in Wales and will reappear at next week’s European Masters
Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain after the closing ceremony of the 39th Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois last year.
The start of the qualifying process to find Europe’s Ryder Cup team may have switched from the mountains to the valleys, with Crans jettisoned in favour of Celtic Manor, but this week’s Wales Open – which offers the first points in a year-long qualifying process – will undoubtedly sharpen the minds of those players intent on breaking on to Paul McGinley’s team.
In truth, the Wales Open won’t be a huge factor in determining the make-up of McGinley’s team. For starters, there is only one player who participated in that miraculous final day fightback by Europe in Medinah last year actually competing this week: Francesco Molinari, alone!
Yet, the fact that the process is finally under way will come as a blessed relief to McGinley, who will add three of his own ‘wild card’ picks to the nine players who eventually emerge through the automatic route.
“This is another significant milestone in my captaincy. It’s going to be an exciting campaign. There’s so many talented players who have the potential to make the team and it will be very interesting for me to watch it evolve,” said McGinley.
“No matter what happens (over the next 12 months), I know I will have 12 players who deserve to be on that team and who will give everything to keep European hands on that trophy,” he added.
The European system will offer four places to players off the European points list (with a point equivalent to every one euro won in prizemoney in official Race to Dubai tournaments up to August 31st next year) and five places to players off the world points list (determined by the amount of world ranking points earned up to the final Race to Dubai counting event on August 31st).
All of which means that this week’s Deutsche Bank championship – the second of the US Tour’s FedEx Cup play-offs – will offer the kickstart to many prospective European players, among them Rory McIlroy (who has slipped to fourth in the latest world rankings) and Graeme McDowell, both of whom are competing in Boston.
McIlroy, who has dropped to fourth in the latest world rankings, moved up the FedEx Cup rankings.
He started the week in New Jersey in 49th and moved up to 36th. In contrast, McDowell, who missed the cut, slipped back from 28th to 44th. The top 70 after this week’s event in Boston will qualify for the BMW in Illinois in a forthnight’s time, after which the top-30 move on to the Tour championship in East Lake, Atlanta.