The Ryder Cup: Team Europe
Ben Coley looks at the current European Ryder Cup standings and assesses the merits of potential wildcard options.
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European Points List
Rory McIlroy (3,051,298.44pts)
Victor Dubuisson (2,631,723.27)
Jamie Donaldson (2,398,823.78)
Henrik Stenson (2,393,504.67)
Thomas Bjorn (2,351,204.85)
Martin Kaymer (1,968,602.18)
Ian Poulter (1,910,151.26)
Justin Rose (1,846,094.97)
Sergio Garcia (1,835,656.78)
Joost Luiten (1,568,079.36)
World Points List
Rory McIlroy (358.26pts)
Henrik Stenson (346.99)
Sergio Garcia (317.40)
Justin Rose (261.33)
Martin Kaymer (245.87)
Thomas Bjorn (193.77)
Victor Dubuisson (186.97)
Luke Donald (162.44)
Jamie Donaldson (162.23)
Graeme McDowell (155.97)
Current European Ryder Cup team: McIlroy, Dubuisson, Donaldson, Stenson, Garcia, Rose, Kaymer, Bjorn, Donald plus three captains' picks
As things stand, five of the successful Medinah side are set to qualify for Gleneagles 2014, albeit Luke Donald's position would appear under significant threat given his current form. A good fornight from either Graeme McDowell, Stephen Gallacher or Ian Poulter could well see them displace Donald, while the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Francesco Molinari, Joost Luiten and Lee Westwood are also close enough if good enough.
Either way, short of a phenomenal burst of results, similar to that achieved by Edoardo Molinari four years ago, the team would look to concern the first eight on the current standings plus those names above. So which of them is worthy, and which carry concerns?
The former world number one has endured a difficult season, despite contending at his favourite stops along the way. Swing changes courtesy of Chuck Cook are taking a while to settle in and it's telling that he currently sits outside the top 100 for greens hit on both major tours. In his favour is an exceptional Ryder Cup record - he's never been on the losing team - and the fact that he's an extremely popular figure among his peers. It was Donald who was given the lead role in the Sunday singles two years ago and, short of a complete loss of form which hasn't yet been the case, he must surely get a wild card if he does drop out of the automatic standings.
Ryder Cup record: 10-4-1 (W-L-H)
Odds to get a wildcard: 8/11
Possible playing partners: Garcia, Poulter, Westwood
McDowell's victory in the Open de France will be too little, too late in terms of qualifying via the European Points List, but it served as a timely reminder that he is playing well enough to deserve a wildcard pick should he fail to creep into the side automatically. His form all season has been solid, and three wins in 2013 help strengthen the case for a player who wasn't at his best at Medinah. Time will tell whether his partnership with Rory McIlroy is maintained - I would suggest not - but whoever he's alongside, McDowell is one of the best clutch putters in the game and the Americans won't need reminding of how unflappable he is under the most intense pressure. Even more so than Donald, I find it impossible to envisage McDowell being left out - although I expect he may well qualify by right.
Ryder Cup record: 5-5-2
Odds to get a wildcard: 2/7
Possible playing partners: McIlroy, Dubuisson, Stenson
Need I say more? The best Ryder Cup player in world golf need only prove that he is fit to be selected. As far as I'm concerned, he could miss every cut from here to September and still be an automatic pick because he is a player who no captain would be able to omit from their side. It was Poulter who rescued Europe not only from defeat but from annihilation at Medinah and increasingly he carries an aura of invincibility at the Ryder Cup. Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar have been his victims in the singles over the last two events but whoever the US manage to line-up against him, Poulter would surely start as a worthy favourite. There's no doubt he'll be there and I only hope that the reputation he's earned remains intact come the presentation ceremony.
Ryder Cup record: 12-3-0
Odds to get a wildcard: 1/5
Possible playing partners: McIlroy, Rose, Westwood, Donald
With a win in Dubai, a top-six in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and further strong performances in Scotland, the Open Championship and the Masters, there's little doubt that Gallacher is in the form of his life. Always considered an expert ball-striker, he's now found confidence with the putter and belief in himself and the results reflect that. It's also in his favour that he's a Scot who has strong form at Gleneagles and he has been on the winning side in a Walker Cup, albeit way back in 1995. The problem for Gallacher is that there are several more experienced players - in Ryder Cup terms - who will require a selection and it's questionable whether he's yet done enough to jump ahead of them.
Ryder Cup record: n/a
Odds to get a wildcard: 8/13
Possible playing partners: Bjorn, Rose, Stenson
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Those who watched the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor will not quickly forget seeing the enigmatic Spaniard sipping wine and smoking a cigar with his hair down. A fans' favourite, there is much to recommend a player who thumped Bubba Watson in the singles four years ago and who played a key part of Jose Maria Olazabal's backroom staff at Medinah. However, despite a top-six finish in the Masters and a much-deserved victory in his national open, Miguel hasn't done enough to make the team on merit and unless he manages a win over the coming six weeks, an off-course role will be his only involvement. I find it very hard to see him being selected, especially as his is far from an exceptional overall record.
Ryder Cup record: 4-8-3
Odds to get a wildcard: 7/1
Possible playing partners: Garcia, Dubuisson, Donaldson
The Dutch star has finally fulfilled his potential over the past 18 months, adding victories in Austria and in his national open to a minor event in Asia which saw him get off the mark on the European Tour. Consistent form in the spring saw him produce good results in the Masters and the Players Championship, without quite catching the eye to the extent managed by Gallacher, Jamie Donaldson and, in the latter event, Francesco Molinari. Last year, Luiten was one of the stars for Continental Europe in the Seve Trophy but while McGinley made all the right noises at the time, I don't believe that will have much of a bearing on his prospects and my feeling is that his two wins in 2013 came a year too soon.
Ryder Cup record: n/a
Odds to get a wildcard: 8/1
Possible playing partners: Jimenez, Bjorn, Rose
The diminutive Italian has the right game for Gleneagles, where he contended when his brother stole the show in 2010, and actually secured the half-point which meant Europe won rather than retained the Ryder Cup at Medinah. Of course, singles opponent Tiger Woods was not as his best that day but it still represented a step forward for Molinari, who had been thumped by the same man at Celtic Manor in 2010. However, it must be said that he didn't perform well at Medinah and wasn't among the key contributers at Celtic Manor, so if he does make the side it won't be because of past exploits in this competition. Ultimately he needs to produce some of the best performances of career and in quick succession if he's to get into the side for the third time in succession.
Ryder Cup record: 0-4-2
Odds to get a wildcard: 6/1
Possible playing partners: Westwood, McIlroy, Donald
Without question the biggest selection dilemma for McGinley concerns Westwood. Back in the spring, a move to coach Mike Walker and the return of Billy Foster to his side saw the former world number one return to winning ways in Malaysia, at which point a place on this team appeared inevitable. However, the 41-year-old was noticeably down on his game in Scotland and then missed the cut at the Open, before hinting that he doesn't want to be picked unless he shows some signs of life. Fortunately for Westwood, in the Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA he has two opportunities to demonstrate what he can still do and any hint of the form which has made him a key part of this side over the last decade will surely be enough to get him in. Of all the players who appear likely to need a selection, Westwood is second only to Poulter in terms of the case away from current form.
Ryder Cup record: 18-13-6
Odds to get a wildcard: 5/2
Possible playing partners: Donald, Garcia, Kaymer, Poulter
Let's get this straight: Bernhard Langer's performance in winning the Senior Open Championship was extraordinary. Forget the opposition and the margin of victory; his score alone was phenomenal and offers further proof that he's the best of the over-50s, a player sure to rack up many more wins on the Champions Tour. But let's not be silly - while he deserves to become a part of the Ryder Cup conversation, his name should be quickly dismissed from calculations. For one thing, he hasn't played in the event for over decade. For another, if he truly believes he's good enough then why isn't he playing on either the European or PGA Tour? There's no value in beating up the old boys if you can compete with the young. No, if Langer really wants to become the oldest player in Ryder Cup history he should raise his sights on a week-to-week level and truly earn a spot for 2016. A man to admire and respect, but not to select.
Ryder Cup record: 21-15-6
Odds to get a wildcard: 25/1
Possible playing partners: Kaymer, McIlroy, Stenson
David John's wildcard picks:
Pablo Larrazabal - winner in high-class company earlier this year and could form a potent combination with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia
Ian Poulter - Has not been anywhere near the top of his game this year but an inspiration to all around him in the cauldron of the Ryder Cup
Stephen Gallacher - Worked hard to get in contention for a place on the team and could prove the ace in the pack in front of the home crowd
Who do you think will be given the three wildcard picks? Send in your selections to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @BenColeyGolf and be in the running for a £50 free bet!