Ryder Cup watch
Last week’s Open de France won by Alex Noren was a superb tournament in itself but with Le Golf National hosting September’s Ryder Cup, there was an obvious sub-plot too.
How would those nailed on for Thomas Bjorn’s European side perform? And could anyone a little off the radar give the Dane a nudge.
If Europe’s team was announced today, the eight automatic picks (four from the European Points list and four from the World Points list) would be as show below. Here’s how they performed in their final competitive dress rehearsal at Le Golf National:
Tyrrell Hatton – Tied 16th was a solid effort from the Englishman and represented his second best finish at Le Golf National from five starts there. Finished fifth for greens in regulation.
Justin Rose – Didn’t play. Rose has a third (2003) and a tied ninth (2012) from just four starts at Le Golf National so enjoys the course although he hasn’t now shown up there for six years.
Tommy Fleetwood – The Englishman has a very curious record at Le Golf National – five missed cuts and a brilliant win in 2017. Bjorn didn’t seem too concerned about Fleetwood’s MC this year, saying the US Open runner-up was tired after recent exertions.
Francesco Molinari – His absence from the field surprised many given that he’s a three-time runner-up at Le Golf National. However, the Italian justified his decision to stay in America for the Quicken Loans National by scoring a sensational eight-shot win. Bjorn will be just fine with that.
Jon Rahm – Tied 10th on debut at Le Golf National last year, the Spaniard came back from his U.S. base for another look and improved to tied fifth. Had a great chance to win but Rahm confirmed that he can do great things at this venue. Watch out America!
Alex Noren – Winner winner chicken dinner! Seven back at start of play, Noren dug deep with a 67 in tough conditions on Sunday and his score of 7-under held up. A few years ago he said he struggled at Le Golf National. Now he has three straight top 10s there, including this year’s win.
Rory McIlroy – Didn’t play. Perhaps, like Molinari, Rory feels he’s already proven himself at Le Golf National after finishing fourth (2010) and third (2016) on his last two visits. Has a lot on his plate at this week’s Irish Open so his absence was understandable.
Paul Casey – Desperate to get back on the European team so perhaps a little surprising he didn’t go the extra mile to take part in Ryder Cup year. Has played it just twice, although the first of those was T10 in 2004.
Thomas Bjorn has four wildcard picks this year and it’s worth noting some relevant recent history.
In the European Tour event held at Celtic Manor in 2010, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari finished in the top four. A few months later, both were chosen as wildcards by Colin Montgomerie for the Ryder Cup held there. Clearly, their performances caught Monty’s eye.
So, which players still bubbling under in the Ryder Cup points race put their hands up with a big performance at Le Golf National?
Chris Wood – He may have faltered at the finish but Wood, who played on the last Ryder Cup team, gave Bjorn a timely reminder of his talents with tied second place. Also T11 at Le Golf National in 2016, he’s now a very legitimate wildcard contender after last week’s performance.
Russell Knox – To make sure there is no element of out of sight, out of mind, the American-based Scot made the trip to Paris for the second year running. And how it proved worthwhile as he closed with a 65 to finish joint runner-up.
Alexander Bjork – One of Europe’s rising stars, the Swede has plenty to do still but Bjork’s tied eighth place finish at Le Golf National will have impressed his fellow Scandinavian Bjorn.
Sergio Garcia – It seemed hard to believe that Sergio had never played Le Golf National before this year as it seems such a good fit for him. He put the theory into practice by finishing T8 and a birdie at the last would have put him in a play-off.
Shane Lowry – He’ll need to back it up with big performances over the next few weeks but T16 for Lowry was a fair effort. If Bjorn really fancies him, Lowry did himself no harm.
All in all, Thomas Bjorn must have been delighted with how his prospective line-up performed at Le Golf National.
Noren won, Rahm cracked the top five and other potential members of his 12-man team showed up well too.
Francesco Molinari, another lock for Bjorn’s team, won by eight on the PGA Tour while the other big-name absentees all have previous good course form at the Paris venue.
The betting says Europe are still underdogs but Captain Bjorn will have left the French capital feeling all the pieces are starting to fall into place.
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