Darren Clarke’s first-9 would-be Hazeltine Heroes have qualified automatically for the 2016 Ryder Cup, but Europe’s Captain now faces the unenviable task of picking his 3 wild-cards from a host of deserving players.
Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan have all claimed their spots – but now it’s time to take a look at the players that have a chance of being one of Clarke’s picks for the 2016 European Ryder Cup Team.
Martin Kaymer 1/16
The German holed the winning putt at Medinah four years ago and, though he’s not had the best of seasons, his experience could be priceless. People looking to knock him will say he wasn’t at his best at Gleneagles in 2014, but his wins in the US PGA and The Players give him an American pedigree that many of his challengers haven’t got.
Lee Westwood 1/10
He may have slipped to 43 in the world rankings, and was only 13th in the Ryder Cup Standings, but this is Darren Clarke’s best mate. He’s another who brings to the table past winning experience and, only if Clarke thinks he’d be a better Vice-Captain this time around, will he surely miss out.
Russell Knox 4/5
At world number-20 Knox is the highest ranked player not to make the team but, having not played much in Europe, he’s not a name that many of the British Public will be routing for. However, his two wins on the PGA Tour this year mark him out as the most inform player of the contenders – and it would be a travesty if he didn’t make the line-up.
Graeme McDowell 2/1
If the above 3 players are to make the team, that means there will be no place for McDowell, the man who fought back bravely to defeat Jordan Spieth at Gleneagles, and claimed the winning point in 2010 at the Celtic Manor. Has won this season on the PGA Tour, but that early season win is a fading memory in the context of his current form.
Luke Donald 8/1
Nobody has a better Ryder Cup record than Luke Donald, but the former world number one’s winless streak is perhaps too long for him to be considered a pick. His second last week shows he’s still got plenty to offer – but it’s surely a case of too little too late.
Shane Lowry 16/1
Had a major win and an automatic Ryder Cup spot in his grasp when leading at this year’s US Open but, despite blowing that opportunity, has shown plenty of great form in the States having won a WGC. However, done nothing in recent weeks to boost his claims – and even victory in this week’s Made In Denmark may not be enough.
Soren Kjeldson 50/1
Must be feeling a little bitter that it’s no longer the top-10 in the Ryder Cup standings that get an automatic spot, but looks likely to be way down the list of wild-cards despite a fantastic effort in this year’s Masters.
Clarke has a difficult task in making a choice between current form and past experience, but his close allegiance to those who have played and prospered before may just sway his decision. Kaymer’s and Westwood’s past experience will surely get them a wild card, and the final tough decision may rest between Knox and McDowell – and the latter’s Irish Connection and past triumphs may just get him the vote.