With the 40th Ryder Cup now just four months away, the teams are beginning to take a more definite shape. So who are the main men chasing those 12 places?
Europe’s men most likely
Age: 24. Ryder Cup appearances: 0
Showed his matchplay capabilities on his way to finishing 2nd at this year’s WGC-Accenture World Matchplay Championship. Superb short game. Only concern: will he still be in form come September?
Age: 34. Ryder Cup appearances: 6
Ignore his Augusta cut, Sergio has not finished outside the top 20 all season. Two wins in the last six months, 7th in the world rankings, and with a great Ryder Cup record. Almost certain to make it.
Age: 38. Ryder Cup appearances: 0
The Welshman has cemented his place on the team by finishing T2 at the WGC-Cadillac. Impressive matchplay form in taking two-and-a-half points from three matches at the EURASIA Cup.
Age: 38. Ryder Cup appearances: 4
IJP has not had the greatest start to the season, but he traditionally plays his best golf in the summer and autumn and will no doubt do so again in 2014. Poulter’s past makes him a certain starter.
Age: 38. Ryder Cup appearances: 2
The world No.3’s form will be of marginal concern to McGinley. Last season he topped the PGA Tour’s GIR stat, now he’s 65th and 185th in strokes gained putting. He should still come good.
Age: 25. Ryder Cup appearances: 2
Rory is back in form and bouncing along the fairways. Eradicate the one bad round he seems to play in each event and he’ll win events this summer. If he can do that, no American will fancy facing him.
Age: 30. Ryder Cup appearances: 0
The Swede all but secured his spot at Gleneagles with a nerveless display at Augusta. Captain McGinley has been making admiring noises and a pairing with Henrik Stenson may well beckon.
Age: 43. Ryder Cup appearances: 2
The in-form Dane sits top of the Race to Dubai and knows that a win in any event or a good finish at a major will be enough to cement his first Ryder Cup appearance since 2002.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Age: 50. Ryder Cup appearances: 4
He may be 50, but finishing 4th at Augusta proved there is life in the smoking old dog yet. Two or three big performances will ensure he becomes Europe’s oldest Ryder Cup player.
The other contenders
Lee Westwood’s win in Malaysia has propelled him back into the running and if Joost Luiten can win twice on the European Tour this season as he did last, he could qualify via the European Points List to make his Ryder Cup debut. Others are struggling. Graeme McDowell hasn’t yet clicked in 2014 and could miss out. Francesco Molinari is not missing many cuts, but also not threatening many leaderboards. Paul Lawrie has struggled so far this season, Martin Kaymer is falling down the rankings and Nicolas Colsaerts has missed five of nine cuts so far. Peter Hanson’s stats show he has issues with every club in the bag.
How they qualify
When Europe’s race to Gleneagles ends on August 31, the top four on the European Points List and top five on the World Points List* will be joined on the team by three captain’s picks. Each Euro players earn in Race to Dubai events (Aug 26, 2013- Aug 31, 2014) counts as a point on the European Points List. And each world ranking point earned during the same period counts as a point on the World Points List. (*Who haven’t already qualified via the European Points List)
The United States
‘Go big or go home’ looks like being the mantra for this year’s US Team, with Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth having secured their places, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson look like joining them, and Harris English and Chris Kirk hovering around the edge of the team. On the plus side for Europe, most of these players lack Ryder Cup experience. On the plus side for America, this means they’ve not suffered numerous disheartening defeats over the past decade.
The big question for Captain Watson will be whether or not to pick Tiger Woods. If he gets back to full fitness it seems ridiculous to leave him out. But Watson knows the US have only won one of the last six Ryder Cups, that being the one Tiger didn’t play in.
How they qualify
When the US race ends on Aug 10, the top nine on their Ryder Cup points list are joined by three captain’s picks. Money earns points – one for every $1,000 won at PGA Tour events, two for every $1,000 won at majors.