Europe in fine fettle as Ryder Cup draws closer
As the countdown to Medinah continues, members of José María Olazábal’s side have looked in good shape on both sides of the pond…
With only 24 days to go before the first tee shots are struck to launch The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, Illinois, there were encouraging performances on both sides of the Atlantic from members of José María Olazábal’s European side.
None more so than that of Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who won his third title of the year at the Deutsche Bank Championship – the second event in the US PGA Tour’s FedExCup Play-Off Series – a majestic performance that saw McIlroy further secure his position as World Number One and also surge into the lead in the US standings.
The 23 year old’s impressive one shot victory over fellow European Tour Member Louis Oosthuizen at TPC Boston means that McIlroy now sits atop both The Race to Dubai and the US PGA Tour standings after adding the Deutsche Bank triumph to his record-breaking success at last month’s US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and his win at March’s Honda Classic – a victory that helped the Ulsterman regain the World Number One spot from team-mate Luke Donald earlier this year.
The US Captain, Davis Love III, who on Tuesday named Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker as his four Captain’s Picks to complete the team that will take on Europe in the biennial clash come the end of September, recently identified McIlroy as Team Europe’s danger man, citing the two-time Major Champion as comparable to Tiger Woods’ influence as a leader on and off the course and stating that he will be “a very big part of [Europe’s] defence.”
Also in top form ahead of golf’s showpiece in Chicago is Paul Lawrie, who will be making only his second Ryder Cup appearance – and first in 13 years – when he takes to Medinah’s No. 3 Course later this month.
Lawrie, winner of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles two weeks ago, looked in superb touch once again in the Swiss Alps at the Omega European Masters where he trailed eventual winner Richie Ramsay by just one shot heading into the final round at Crans-sur-Sierre.
A final round of 70 saw the rejuvenated Scotsman - twice now a winner on The European Tour in 2012 - ultimately finish in a tie for sixth place, five shots behind Ramsay.
After claiming the ninth automatic qualification spot, Peter Hanson also took to the picturesque Alpine layout last week to continue his preparation for a second Ryder Cup cap.
A model of consistency for three of his four rounds at Crans Montana, the Swede carded two under par rounds of 69 in the first, second and final rounds, with only an uncharacteristic 76 in Saturday’s third round seeing him slip into a tie for 59th place by the event’s climax.
Also competing on the PGA Tour was a man likely to be a talisman for the European team, the hugely experienced Lee Westwood, who will be playing in The Ryder Cup for an eighth time this year having amassed 19 valuable points in his previous appearances.
Westwood was next-best of the European team contingent in Massachusetts, finishing in a tie for 13th place, with Donald (T26) and Ian Poulter (T47) also showing flashes of form.
Graeme McDowell was 27 places further down the leaderboard come the Bank Holiday Monday finish in the States, while England’s Justin Rose had a rare missed cut after opening with a first-round 75.
With Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and Germany’s Martin Kaymer set to join Hanson at the KLM Open this week to continue their Ryder Cup preparations, and the BMW Championship again featuring a handful of Olazábal's side in America, all will be aiming to impress their captain and strike a psychological blow as The Ryder Cup draws ever closer.