There were ominous signs in the Arabian desert on Sunday for not only Shane Lowry’s prospects of making it onto Padraig’s team for Whistling Straits, but also for Team Europe’s winning chances in September too.
The Americans came in strength to Saudi Arabia (a European Tour stop, believe it or not) and they made off with a lion’s share of the loot due to Dustin Johnson winning and Tony Finau finishing joint-second. Take that, Europe, I could hear them say as they waited in the airport terminal for their flight home.
My main take after watching the action on TV was the lack of a serious Irish challenge in spite of Shane Lowry as good as promising one to us after round three when he said he was happy with his game and looking forward ‘to getting into double figures’. He never came close.
Shane is a terrific golfer and he has proved it many times but he needs a big win soon and plenty of top-5s to back it up – if he is to fight his way into Captain Padraig’s deliberations. Lowry’s famous triumph at Portrush will hardly count in the 2021 Ryder Points scenario. Any ranking points that were accrued in 2019 will be well-diluted before Padraig makes his final judgement next September.
To gain an automatic selection, Shane will definitely need one big win; maybe two wins judging by the way the rankings are stacking up at the moment. Making the European side is about as competitive as it has ever been. All of the consistent top-20 finishes in the world won’t get past the long queue ahead of him.
To be realistic, Shane’s season badly needs an injection of dramatic forward momentum. One cannot begin to guess who Padraig’s three picks might be at this stage but, on current form, Shane cannot possibility expect to be one.
The only way one might try to guess the make-up of the team at the moment is to take the top six from the European Order of Merit and likewise from the World Rankings, which produces the following X11: Hatton, Fleetwood, Rahm, McIlroy, Perez, Casey, Willett, Fitzpatrick, Wiesberger, Westwood, Macintyre and Cabrera Bello. More than half a team of multi-capped proven winners are on the outside looking in: Rose, Stenson, Poulter, Kaymer, McDowell, Garcia and the star of the show in Paris, Francesco Molinari.
Other recent Ryder Cuppers: Andy Sullivan, Alex Noren and Thomas Pieters are well out of the frame too but are capable of forcing their way up the standings at any moment. Amongst the uncapped aspirants whose chances cannot be dismissed either are: Viktor Hovland (a certainty to be picked by all accounts), Matt Wallace, Rasmus Hojgaard (a 19-year old with two ET wins under his belt already), Russell Knox, Eddie Pepperell, Joost Luiten and Adri Arnaus. It’s a crowded field.
Shane Lowry has a mighty task on his hands and he’ll know more than anyone that Padraig is ruthless. He’ll pick the best team he can. There will be no friendship sentimentality.