Nine golfers have qualified for the European Ryder Cup Team on merit with Captain Darren Clarke drawing attention to the “fantastic blend of youth and experience”. It will be down to Clarke and his vice-captains to complete the 12 by naming their three wild cards on Tuesday 30th August.
Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose are the only four in the current nine with any Ryder Cup experience, whilst Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood and Rafa Cabrera-Bello are set to make their debuts at Hazeltine. Let’s take a look at who is in the running for the final three spots.
Martin Kaymer is a certainty. He is in great form and is very dependable. Having sunk the winning putt four years ago there's no doubting his Ryder Cup credentials and he came very close to qualifying on merit. He will be expected to play a key role when picked. As short as 1/100 but best-price 1/16.
Boasting an exceptional Ryder Cup record, Lee Westwood also looks a banker. Despite not performing to the peak of his powers at Medinah in 2012, Westwood provided Europe with two vital points. Two years ago he was selected as a wildcard at Gleneagles and again contributed with two points. He’ll provide an experienced head amongst a team heavy on rookies. Westwood is as short as 1/50 with 1/10 available.
The third and final spot is up for grabs. Scotsman Russell Knox can feel very hard done by if he doesn’t get the nod. This season alone Knox has won twice on the PGA Tour, including a World Golf Championship event where he didn’t receive Ryder Cup points as he wasn’t a member on the European Tour. Had he been, he would have comfortably qualified automatically. His second win was in his most recent start at the Travelers Championship. Knox is as short as 4/9 but best-price 4/5.
If Darren Clarke’s priority is experience then Graeme McDowell might be his man. Having been sent out first in the singles at Gleneagles, GMac beat Jordan Spieth. At Celtic Manor in 2010, McDowell was sent out at the other end and secured the winning point for Europe. This reliability may appeal to Clarke and his vice-captains. You can get 2/1 on GMac being picked (as short as 11/8 elsewhere).
Having spent 56 weeks as world number one between 2011 and 2012, Luke Donald was close to dropping outside the top 100 early in 2016. However, in recent months we have seen flashes of his former self. Donald has thrown his name firmly into the hat with his superb performance in the Wyndham Championship last week, where he finished second. Best-price 8/1.
Shane Lowry looked a cert to be part of the European side at Hazeltine when he won the WGC-Bridgestone and had a third round lead at the US Open. But the Irishman carded +6 on the Sunday to finish three shots off the lead and this capitulation may concern Clarke and co. An excellent performance in Denmark this week would definitely help Lowry. He is as short as 8/1, with 16/1 still available.
The last man worth a mention is Belgian Thomas Pieters. Pieters has climbed the European ladder rapidly and has impressed this season. He is in excellent form having narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal finishing fourth, before coming so close to defending his title at the Czech Masters. He would be a gamble and it’ll be down to Captain Clarke to decide whether it’s a gamble worth taking. Pieters is best price 20/1 (as short as 7/1 elsewhere).
Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood look certainties but who would you like to see as the third pick?— Oddschecker (@Oddschecker) August 23, 2016