Race to Ryder Cup brings Major appeal in St Louis
Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn knows he will face the most difficult decision of his career on September 5 but the Great Dane is not intimidated by the challenge ahead of him.
With just four events remaining for golfers to play their way onto the European Team at Le Golf National, time is running out to rack up enough points or catch the Skipper's eye and earn one of his four picks.
Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Paul Casey occupy the eight qualifying spots heading into the US PGA Championship, meaning a host of big names and form horses are on the outside looking in.
Rolex Series winners Thorbjørn Olesen and Russell Knox are right on the bubble, with Eddie Pepperell and Ian Poulter - who both have worldwide wins this season - also knocking on the door in one of the most thrilling races to make the European Team in history.
Whatever happens over the next month, Bjørn will be left with some tough decisions to make but the 15-time European Tour winner concedes it is a good problem to have.
"I'm going to go with what I think is the 12 best players to do the job," he said.
"I look at it and I go, 'It's going to be tough'. As a Captain, I think you just want to have four that just stand out in front of you but in this case, that's not going to happen. There's going to be six or seven names that really deserve a lot of thought about if they should be on the team or not.
"So that's the situation that's going to be there. But I don't look at what happened at Hazeltine, I look at what's in front of me and how we're going to make this team work the best possible way."
Olesen is the man currently closest to snatching an automatic spot and has been in sparkling form since he won the Italian Open in June, with top tens at the BMW International Open, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and also a tie for 12th at the Open Championship.
Bjørn knows more about his game than most but he insists that should his fellow Dane get a pick, it will be due to golf and nothing else.
"He's a guy in good form," he said. "He's played some good golf this year: he won in Italy, he finished second in Germany, good showing at The Open and then third last week.
"When you've got somebody that is such a close friend and I spent so much time with him, I made it very clear to him from the beginning, 'you need to do something very special to make this team and preferably make the team on merit'.
"Because I can't be in a situation where I feel like I'm doing anybody a favour because it's about bringing the 12 best players in Europe and who me and my Vice Captains think are the 12 best guys that are going to do the best job for us."
Whichever 12 players end up playing for the yellow and blue flag in Paris, Bjørn is confident he will have a quality Team as Europe aim to win back the Cup with a seventh victory in ten stagings.
"We've known for the better part of the 12 months that we were going to have a very strong team, the way a lot of these guys have been playing," he said. "So as captain, it's exciting to see so many of them do well in big championships and winning golf tournaments and pushing themselves to their limits that they have.
"So I sit in a good place. I'm happy with what's going on but still a big fight going on for the last few places and I'm happy to be in that position because you want people to push themselves right to the end. Then the 12 will be those 12 that's going to be.
"But it's a good position for European golf at the moment. There's 24 guys that are going to be very much close to the top of the World Rankings going to The Ryder Cup in France. That's going to make for one hell of a Ryder Cup."