Ryder Cup European Team Predictions
The WGC-Accenture Match Play has whetted the appetite for the 2014 Ryder Cup, which gets underway in just over six months. With the two sides shaping up and the furore surrounding one of the most highly-anticipated contests in recent history, it seems an apt time to analyse form and rankings, and predict who might be taking part for the European team at Gleneagles in September.
The Swede's remarkable string of performances from the middle of 2013 have ensured he's essentially a nailed-on certainly to make his first Ryder Cup performance since 2008. He dominated the world game for six months last season, and anyone with that ability in today's global golfing climate has the potential to be a huge asset. Add to that his considerable experience and you have a player poised to make a huge impact.
Rose is such a steady all-round performer and someone who is seemingly in contention every week. He's grown in stature over the past couple of years, and his incredible come-back victory over Phil Mickelson in the 2012 singles at Medinah paved the way for his maiden major triumph. He boasts one of the best European Matchplay records and his calm disposition and consistency should ensure that doesn't change.
You'd be hard pressed to make an argument against Ian Poulter as the best Ryder Cup player of all time. He single-handedly pulled Europe back from the abyss at Medinah and produced arguably the best Ryder Cup performance of all time. In the aftermath, Lee Westwood said: 'They are changing the qualification criteria for 2014; nine automatic places, two captain's picks and Ian Poulter.'
After a tumultous 2013, McIlroy has started to show glimpses of the form that propelled him to the summit of the world game. He looks to be comfortable in himself again, and that's translating to some encouraging performances. His swing is is good shape, he's comfortable with his clubs, his personal life is stable and he has a sense of perspective after last season. I think McIlroy will win a major this season, and play a starring role in Scotland.
The Ulsterman is one of the most tenacious matchplay opponents in the world game. He may not have the most aesthetically pleasing golf swing or the raw power of a Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson, but he's a born winner. He's possesses a brilliant short-game and an unparalleled desire to succeed, which will make him one of the most fearful competitors on the European team.
Garcia looks in a comfortable position at the head of the European World Points List. He's become one of Europe's most dependable performers over the years and his experience - as well as his ability to forge relationships with a number of different players - will be invaluable. He seems to have found a way to take more enjoyment from the game, and that has undoubtedly contributed to a string of impressive recent performances, including wins in Thailaind and Qatar.
Provided the Welshman maintains his impressive consistency, he'll be in a great position. He's one of the few players vying for qualification who doesn't really divide his time between Europe and America, and that should stand him in good stead. He's currently third on the World Points List and fifth on the European Points List, so even if he slips down the world rankings, he's in a good position to force his way into the European top four. As it stands, Stenson is less than 2,000 euros ahead of him.
Dubuisson has been hugely impressive over the last few months, and he's fortunate that his good run of form coincided with the European Tour's lucrative Finals Series - in turn influencing the Ryder Cup standings. He also produced an incredible debut display at the Acccenture Match Play, showing how much of an asset he could be at Gleneagles in September. He's clearly not overawed by the big occasion and his agressive style of play is perfectly suited to matchplay.
Thomas Bjorn - Bjorn is another player who's benefitted from doing well in lucrative events, like the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the end of 2013. He currently leads the European Points List and given he's likely to spend the next six months competing predominantly on the European Tour, some solid form should see him earn a place in Paul McGinley's side.
Donald has been hugely disappointing over the last 18 months, and his first-round loss to Matteo Manassero at the WGC Match Play was symptomatic of a player very much out of form. But Donald has been working very hard on his swing of late, and it might be too early to judge him. He's a class act with ample experience and his partnership with Sergio Garcia has delivered numerous points for Europe over the years. If he shows some form between now and September, I think he'll earn a pick.
Not only is Luiten one of the most aggressive and exciting players on Tour, he's also developed into an extremely consistent performer. He won twice in 2013 and he hasn't finished outside the top 25 since the BMW Masters last October. The Dutchman has some very beneficial matchplay attributes - like a very high birdie average and excellent putting statistics - and he's fully deserving of a place in the side.
Obviously it's very difficult to predit what's going to happen between now and September, but I've got an incling Paul Casey is going to come good. He admitted at the start of the year that he's feeling confident about his game, and focussing solely on Europe is a sound strategy. He won in Ireland last year and he's far too good a player to be outside the world's top 50 for too much longer. If he fails to make progress, though, the likes of Molinari, Larrazabal, Gallacher, Jimenez and Wiesberger are waiting in the wings.
No place for...Kaymer/Westwood
As it stands, I don't think Lee Westwood or Martin Kaymer are worthy of a place in the side. Kaymer's career has stagnated since he reached world number one and he hasn't recorded victory since November 2011 - far too long for someone with his talent. Westwood, meanwhile, is still hopelessly inept on the greens, and when there's such a plethora of in-form European talent, I don't see how he can be chosen over some of the other contenders.
The Ryder Cup is unlike any other tournament in golf and the atmosphere is something that every golf fan should experience. The experts at Golfbreaks.com can help with all aspects of your Ryder Cup experience, from accommodation and ticket packages to hospitality and travel and playing some of the fantastic nearby courses.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)