The World Cup and Wimbledon will shortly fade into memory but 2014 still has plenty of great sporting action to keep us entertained and for sheer drama, it’s tough to match the excitement of the Ryder Cup.
Who can forget the Miracle of Medinah in 2012 when Europe came from a seemingly impossible position to win the trophy on the last day? Hopefully, this year’s tournament at Gleneagles will be just as thrilling but how are the two teams shaping up in the scramble for qualifying points?
Paul McGinley’s European side are favourites at 2.02 with Betfair to win the Ryder Cup in 2014 and the captain is assembling a strong squad ahead of September’s event.
These days, points are awarded in qualifying tournaments from all over the world so in theory, the continent’s strongest golfers will always come through to qualify.
McGinley will include four automatic qualifiers from the European tour and currently, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson leads the way after a consistent spell of play that included a second place in the Nordea Masters.
Jamie Donaldson is close behind with a gap of less than 5,000 points while the experienced Scandinavian pair of Henrik Stenson and Thomas Bjorn occupy the remaining automatic slots.
The biggest mover on the European tour in recent days has been Graeme McDowell whose win at the French Open was the best result of a disappointing season. The Northern Irishman moves up to tenth on the European list and a change in form will force McGinley to consider McDowell as a Captain’s Pick.
Many of the best players in Europe this year find themselves occupying the top slots in the World Points list. Stenson, Donaldson, Bjorn and Dubuisson all feature while the remaining qualifying places are taken by Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald.
There’s still room for movement in the final tournaments of the season and the list of golfers just outside the top positions includes strong players such as Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari and Miguel Angel Jimenez. If those three men don’t make it, they will join others in an anxious wait to see who McGinley includes in his three wild cards.
The big dilemma for US captain Tom Watson concerns the form and fitness of Tiger Woods who is some way from his best after returning from a long term injury.
In theory, Woods could still make the automatic qualifying places with a string of top finishes but in all probability, the only way he can travel to Gleneagles is as one of the Captain’s Picks.
The former World Number One would ordinarily be guaranteed a slot on the team but if Watson is concerned over Woods’ ability to contribute over three tough days of competition, he will have a difficult decision to make.
The current US ranking table shows Bubba Watson as the clear leader with Jimmy Walker in second place. Both men should be present in the United States team while Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth and Jim Furyk are also putting some distance between themselves and their closest challengers.
Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner and Patrick Reed currently occupy the remaining automatic slots while a notable absentee from that list is Phil Mickelson who is ranked 11th. Tom Watson will surely hand ‘Lefty’ a Captain’s Pick but would prefer it if the player rediscovered his form and made the team on merit.
The 2014 Ryder Cup takes place at Gleneagles from the 26th to the 28th of September and while we might not see a repeat of the Miracle at Medinah, the action is bound to be thrilling and tense up until the last putt.
The players are moving into the crucial period as far as qualification is concerned but right now, both sides are looking immensely strong ahead of the big event.