Ryder Cup Countdown

Mark McGowan
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Viktor Hovland (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

We’re now 30 weeks from the opening blows at Whistling Straits, and both the European and American rankings are beginning to take familiar shape. Seven players with previous Ryder Cup experience are in the nine automatic qualifying positions in the European table, while it’s six out of eight in the United States’ rankings.

The most significant moves of the week were made by Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau at the WGC Mexico and by Viktor Hovland at the PGA Tour’s opposite field event in Puerto Rico.

After a less-than stellar performance in Paris, followed by similar in the Presidents Cup in December, Reed’s reputation as Captain America had taken a significant nosedive.

Would Steve Stricker risk a captain’s pick on somebody whose ability to gel with his fellow teammates is questionable? Reed will be desperately trying to make sure we never have to find out. As for Bryson? Those of us who sniggered at his off-season bulking have been somewhat silenced. DeChambeau led the field in driving distance in Mexico, averaging 355 yards with the big stick. To put that in context, he marginally outperformed Rory McIlroy in distance and in strokes gained off the tee, and Rory is widely considered to be the best driver in the game.

Though there were plenty of European names on the leaderboard in Mexico, the two highest finishers are already virtually guaranteed their tickets to Wisconsin. Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton took a small step closer to reactivating their successful partnership from 2018, and Rafael Cabrera Bello made a similarly small stride. But the most significant European move came from Hovland.

The young Norwegian is in his first year as a pro and claimed his first professional victory in Puerto Rico. This win secures Hovland’s PGA Tour playing status until the end of 2022 and moves him to number 60 in the world. This puts the rookie in a strong position entering the Florida swing, knowing that holding the top-64 ranking will get him into the WGC Matchplay, after which the top-50 on the OWGR are guaranteed a Masters invite.

Hovland is a player that will have been very much on Padraig Harrington’s radar and could yet be one of the strongest cards in the European captain’s hand.

As it stands – Team Europe

Tommy Fleetwood

Jon Rahm

Rory McIlroy

Victor Perez

Danny Willett

Matt Fitzpatrick

Tyrell Hatton

Bernd Wiesberger

Graeme McDowell

*Comprised of the top four players on the European Points List and the next five players from the World Points List who are not already included.

European World Points List – The Big Movers

Tyrell Hatton – Up 2 places to #7

Viktor Hovland – Up 35 places to #20

 

As it stands – Team USA

Brooks Koepka

Dustin Johnson

Patrick Reed

Xander Schauffele

Webb Simpson

Gary Woodland

Justin Thomas

Tiger Woods

*Comprised of the top eight points scorers on the PGA Tour’s Ryder Cup points list

PGA Tour Points List – The Big Movers

Patrick Reed – Up 9 places to #3

Bryson DeChambeau – Up 14 places to #13

 

The Locks – Team Europe

Rory McIlroy – Will be annoyed that he hasn’t won yet having given himself three good chances, but he has to be happy with his rise in the world rankings.

Jon Rahm – See above.

Tommy Fleetwood – Rarely has a bad week. Due a PGA Tour win but guaranteed his place anyway.

The Locks – Team USA

Brooks Koepka – A little less certain than previous weeks due to his admission that his knee was still giving him trouble, but I still expect Brooks to step up strong on the East coast swing.

Justin Thomas – Two wins and two top five finishes this season, and he’s yet to find his A-game. An unbelievable talent. He will find it and qualify with ease.

 

The Probables – Team Europe

Sergio Garcia – A little worryingly, Sergio has slipped outside the top-40 in the world. Not sounding the alarm bells just yet though. I still expect Sergio to make the team one way or another.

The Probables – Team USA

Patrick Reed – An impressive win in Mexico in the eye of the storm. He wants to be part of this team badly and doesn’t want it left to chance.

Tiger Woods – Tiger fans are shifting a little uncomfortably after his performance at Riviera, but there’s no cause for major concern yet. I still think if his body holds up, then he qualifies outright.

 

The Might Need a Picks – Team Europe

Henrik Stenson – A very average start to 2020 for Henrik. Two appearances in the Middle-East and one in Singapore have yielded mid-table finishes. Turns to the PGA Tour from Bay Hill onwards so we’ll get a better idea of the Swede’s Ryder Cup aspirations then.

Justin Rose – A missed cut and a T56 finish in two PGA tour starts this year. He doesn’t look worried yet, but I think a certain Mr. Harrington might be

 

The Might Need a Picks – Team USA

Outside the automatic qualification positions at present lie Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Kisner, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, shall I continue? This could prove to be hardest US team to qualify for in recent memory.

 

 

 

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