Out of Bounds: Europe’s Ryder Cup prospects looking white-hot
Francesco Molinari among the world’s form players set to be at Thomas Bjorn’s disposal
Francesco Molinari kisses the Claret Jug after his British Open win at Carnoustie. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty)
One of the primary factors keyed into the equation for any Ryder Cup captain is “current form,” which - for good reason - is the healthiest barometer in determining how hot or cold a player is going into the hottest of all golfing environments.
The clock is ticking down towards the Ryder Cup in Paris at the backend of September, but there is little doubt that it is Europe’s captain Thomas Bjorn who has greater entitlement to raise a smile these days rather than his USA opposite number Jim Furyk.
Rather than simply looking at the current world rankings, it is worth looking at which players have accumulated the most world ranking points in tournaments over the past two months. The results are revealing, even eye-opening. Taking the week of the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour and the Forth Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour as the starting point, we find the top-10 players on a current form list (if one were to exist) features seven Europeans and three Americans.
In order, that current form list over the past two months goes: 1, Francesco Molinari; 2, Brooks Koepka; 3, Justin Rose; 4, Rory McIlroy; 5, Bryson DeChambeau; 6, Dustin Johnson; 7, Alex Noren; 8, Russell Knox; 9, Tommy Fleetwood; and, 10, Thorbjorn Olesen.
It is no surprise that Molinari is the biggest accumulator of points in the past two months. Prior to his win in the BMW PGA at Wentworth, the Italian was outside the top-15 in both the European and World points list in qualifying for Bjorn’s team. However, a run of 1st-2nd-25th-1st-2nd-1st starting at Wentworth has seen the Italian leapfrog to the very top of the qualification pile with his place on the team guaranteed.
That BMW PGA championship, which was the timely launch pad for Molinari’s stellar run of form, also commenced rewarding good form by increasing the points by a factor of 1.5 and the consequences of a dip in form for players set is apparent: Ross Fisher and Sergio Garcia, who were among those in the automatic qualifying places at that time, have since dropped out, to be replaced by the man himself, Molinari, and Paul Casey.
As of now, the hand dealt to Bjorn by the qualifying process would have Molinari, Rose, Tyrell Hatton, Fleetwood, McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Casey as his eight automatic qualifiers. So, no Garcia. No Stenson. No Poulter. No Fitzpatrick. No Cabrera Bello. No Frenchman.
Bjorn of course has four “wild card” picks to put his own handprint onto the team that will represent Europe, yet the evidence base would suggest that the system itself is looking after him in rewarding those players currently hot. Molinari, more than anyone, is the prime example of that.