Graeme McDowell

Europe victorious at Celtic Manor

Six months and counting...

As the sands of time trickle towards Gleneagles this September we take a closer look at just how qualification for the European team has evolved over the past decade with six months to the day until transatlantic battle commences on the PGA Centenary Course.

With the year’s first Major Championship just around the corne, and the gorgeous green of Augusta National preparing to herald the start of the golfing summer, who will represent their respective team come The Ryder Cup will be decided over the coming months.

Last time out, of the ten players who were ‘in the team’ with six months to go until the 2012 matches, nine ended up qualifying and playing their part in the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.

That year Italian Francesco Molinari was the only man to force his way among the automatic qualifiers as he usurped Gonzalo-Fernandez-Castaño and denied the Spaniard a Ryder Cup debut in Chicago.

Looking at the team as it stands now, with 22 qualifying weeks to go, there are possibly only four players who could claim to be almost there with the race to qualify wide open.

Frenchman Victor Dubuisson is the current runaway leader in the World Points List, with the top four qualifying for Captain Paul McGinley’s side after the last counting event, the Italian Open from August 28-31.

Dubuisson has chalked up strong displays across the globe, winning a maiden title at the Turkish Airlines Open presented by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture on The European Tour last October before announcing himself to an American audience in February, when his short game majesty in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship final against Jason Day stole the headlines.

The Frenchman is on course for a Ryder Cup debut, and as it stands he would be joined by fellow first-timer Jamie Donaldson, who has also impressed both sides of the Atlantic, notably with his joint second place finish in the WGC – Cadillac Championship.

On the European Points list, with five places up for grabs, Henrik Stenson looks assured of his place on the team after his global success last season when he finished European Number One having already won the FedEx Cup.
Sergio Garcia is in second spot behind the Swede, and is in a strong position after his January triumph at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Two-time Ryder Cup vice-captain Thomas Björn is in the frame among the World Points qualifiers alongside Medinah magician Ian Poulter, but neither can be sure of their place just yet.

On the European Points list former World Number Ones Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are in position, as is two-time Omega Dubai Desert Classic Champion Stephen Gallacher, but all will need a strong summer to maintain their position.

Still plenty to play for, and it would be a brave person to predict that the nine currently in the box seats will be the ones to qualify, especially with history suggesting numerous changes could be ahead.

In 2010, with just six months to go until The Celtic Manor Resort played host, the team had a very different makeup from the one which eventually lined up on the first tee of the Twenty Ten Course. In fact, just four of those in the qualifying positions at this time that year eventually went on to represent Europe.

It was a similar case at Valhalla Golf Club in 2008, which was the last time the Americans were victorious. That year, once again, only five players in the team with six months to go ended up representing Europe under the stewardship of six-time Major Champion Nick Faldo.

Jump back a further four years to Oakland Hills, and  five players made it to America having been in position to do so with six months still to go.
Bucking that trend was the K Club in 2006, where, similar to Medinah two years ago, eight members of the European Team were already in the qualifying places.

Plenty of food for thought as McGinley assesses every candidate in the coming tournaments and championships that will eventually shape who tees it up for the European Team from September 26-28.
 

       
       
RYDER CUP STANDINGS WITH SIX MONTHS TO GO    
       
*Bold type denotes the players who actually qualified and were in the qualifying positions with six months to go.
       
2004      
WORLD LIST EUROPEAN LIST ACTUAL QUALIFIERS  
Darren Clarke Ian Poulter Paul Casey  
Miguel Angel Jiménez Raphaël Jacquelin Darren Clarke  
Fredrik Jacobson Padraig Harrington Sergio Garcia  
Lee Westwood Carlos Rodiles Padraig Harrington  
Brian Davis Maarten Lafeber David Howell  
    Miguel Angel Jiménez
    Thomas Levet  
    Paul McGinley  
    Ian Poulter  
    Lee Westwood 5
    WILD CARDS  
    Luke Donald  
    Colin Montgomerie  
       
2006      
WORLD LIST EUROPEAN LIST ACTUAL QUALIFIERS  
Henrik Stenson Paul McGinley Paul Casey  
Sergio Garcia José María Olazábal Luke Donald  
Colin Montgomerie Nick Dougherty Sergio Garcia  
Luke Donald Kenneth Ferrie Padraig Harrington  
David Howell Paul Casey David Howell  
    Robert Karlsson  
    Paul McGinley  
    Colin Montgomerie  
    José María Olazábal  
    Henrik Stenson 8
    WILD CARDS  
    Darren Clarke  
    Lee Westwood  
       
2008      
WORLD LIST EUROPEAN LIST ACTUAL QUALIFIERS  
Lee Westwood Graeme McDowell Sergio Garcia  
Justin Rose Nick Dougherty Søren Hansen  
Henrik Stenson Robert Karlsson Padraig Harrington  
Daniel Chopra Søren Kjeldsen Miguel Angel Jiménez
Martin Kaymer Søren Hansen Robert Karlsson  
    Graeme McDowell  
    Justin Rose  
    Henrik Stenson  
    Lee Westwood 5
    Oliver Wilson  
    WILD CARDS  
    Paul Casey  
    Ian Poulter  
       
2010      
WORLD LIST EUROPEAN LIST ACTUAL QUALIFIERS  
Lee Westwood Ross McGowan Ross Fisher  
Ian Poulter Martin Kaymer Peter Hanson  
Rory McIlroy Simon Dyson Miguel Angel Jiménez
Padraig Harrington Paul Casey Martin Kaymer  
  Oliver Wilson Graeme McDowell  
    Rory McIlroy  
    Francesco Molinari  
    Ian Poulter  
    Lee Westwood 4
    WILD CARDS  
    Luke Donald  
    Padraig Harrington  
    Edoardo Molinari  
       
2012      
EUROPEAN LIST WORLD LIST ACTUAL QUALIFIERS  
Rory McIlroy Luke Donald Luke Donald  
Martin Kaymer Lee Westwood Sergio Garcia  
Peter Hanson Graeme McDowell Peter Hanson  
Justin Rose Sergio Garcia Martin Kaymer  
Paul Lawrie Gonzalo Fdez-Castaño Paul Lawrie  
    Graeme McDowell  
    Rory McIlroy  
    Francesco Molinari  
    Justin Rose  
    Lee Westwood 9
    WILD CARDS  
    Nicolas Colsaerts  
    Ian Poulter