Early 2008 Ryder Cup Talk: Europe

The Europeans have won the last three Ryder Cup matches, but how are they looking for 2008?

Thrash TalkA few weeks ago, I broke down the current status of the United States Ryder Cup team, and now it’s time to take a look at the team from across the pond. The European side will enter this year’s matches as the three-time defending champions, and regardless of what the media says, they will definitely be the favorites this time around.

The European Ryder Cup team is selected using three different methods. The first is based on the players’ standing in the European Tour Order of Merit over a 12-month period. The second is based off the players’ Official World Golf Ranking points won in the same 12-month period. These two methods will qualify ten members for the team, while the remaining two golfers will be selected by captain Nick Faldo.

Things are a little tougher to keep up with on the European side of things, but the team is going to be awesome nonetheless. That being said, who is currently in good shape to make the team, and who needs to find their game in a hurry to make a late run? Also, which golfers might surprise and make their first appearance in The Ryder Cup?

These Guys are Looking Good
Lee Westwood is currently at the top of the World and European Points List, and he is nearly a lock to make the team. Westwood has played in every Ryder Cup since 1997 and has consistently been one of the go-to-guys for the European side. In 25 career matches in the event, he has a stellar overall record of 14-8-3. Barring a huge shake-up in the standings, Westwood will likely be playing in his sixth Ryder Cup later this year.

Henrik Stenson has only played in one Ryder Cup (2006), but he is almost a lock for this year’s as well. The Swede is currently second on the World Points List and third on the European Points List. Stenson went 1-1-1 in his first appearance in 2006, and he has played well since then including a victory at the 2007 Accenture Match Play Championship. His calm and cool demeanor is perfect for match-play events, and he will be a stalwart for the Europeans at Valhalla.

Sergio GarciaThe Players Champion, Sergio Garcia, moved up to third on the World Points List after his performance this past weekend at Sawgrass. Garcia has played in every Ryder Cup since 1999 and has a wonderful overall record. In 20 matches, the young Spaniard is 14-4-2. His putting has been questioned in regular events, but everything seems to come together in team competition. Garcia will more than likely end up in good shape in the standings, but regardless of where he ends up, he will be a captain’s pick at the very least.

The last guy currently in great shape in the standings is Justin Rose. The Englishman is fourth on the World Points List and second on the European Points List. Rose hasn’t played in The Ryder Cup before, but this will likely be the first of many for this ever-improving golfer. He has struggled a little recently with a back injury, but hopefully that will pass in the next few months. If he continues to struggle, he could fail to make the team. That being said, things are looking very good for Rose at this point in time.

These Guys Still Have Work to Do
Padraig Harrington would be on the team if things were decided today, but he still has some work to do. The Irishman is currently fifth on the World Points List, but he is 12th on the European Points List. He doesn’t have a lot of room for error, so he must play well from here on out. Harrington has played in every Ryder Cup since 1999 and has an overall record of 7-8-2. It’s hard to imagine a current European Ryder Cup team without him.

Robert Karlsson was a Ryder Cup rookie in 2006 and is once again in position to make the squad. Right now, he is fourth on the European Points List, and if he plays decent through August, he should be in good shape. The Swede went 0-1-2 at The K Club two years ago and has the same calm and cool demeanor as fellow countryman Henrik Stenson.

Graeme McDowell is in a similar position to Robert Karlsson. McDowell is currently fifth on the European Points List, so he still has a little work to do to make the team. He has never played in a Ryder Cup, and while he may not seem to be as solid as a Luke Donald or Paul Casey, he is in this position for a reason.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is the last guy in this section. Jimenez is currently seventh on the European Points List, and that would be good enough to get him onto the team. The Spaniard is also 10th on the World Points List, so he has a couple different options. He played in The Ryder Cup on two different occasions (1999 and 2004) and has a 1-3 overall record. That’s not a good record considering the recent success of the European side, but Jimenez will be in the thick of things when the selection process is made.

Notables on the Outside Looking In
I haven’t checked the European standings on a weekly basis this year, and I was surprised to see Luke Donald’s name so far down the list. He is currently ninth on the World Points List, but he is 58th on the European Points List. Donald played in the Ryder Cup in 2004 and 2006 and compiled an overall record of 5-1-1. It’s a huge surprise to see him on the outside looking in, but he will be on the team regardless of where he ends up. Nick Faldo can’t pass on this guy if it comes down to that.

Ian PoulterIan Poulter is currently eighth on the World Points List and 16th on the European Points List. Poulter has put himself in contention in big tournaments on a consistent basis, but he hasn’t finished things off on the weekend. He has all the tools needed to get the job done and will play well enough the rest of the year to make the team. In his only other Ryder Cup appearance, Poulter had an overall record of 1-1.

Along with Luke Donald, Paul Casey is the biggest shock on this list. Casey looked near unstoppable a couple years back heading into the 2006 Ryder Cup, but he has been very inconsistent as of late. He is currently 25th on the World Points List and 23rd on the European Points List and still has a lot of work to do. The Englishman has played in the last two matches and has an overall record of 3-1-2. Casey is a very streaky golfer, and if he is playing well at the time, he would be a good pick regardless of his standing. If he isn’t playing well, he wouldn’t be a good pick at all.

Darren Clarke’s win a few weeks back increases his hopes to make another Ryder Cup team. Before that, Clarke was struggling more than ever before and had no shot of playing at Valhalla later in the year. Nonetheless, the fan favorite has climbed to 23rd on the World Points List and 28th on the European Points List. He has played every Ryder Cup since 1997 and has an overall record of 10-7-3. Clarke probably won’t get a captain’s pick unless he gets really close to qualifying on his own, so he still has a lot of work to do. Don’t count him out though.

Colin Montgomerie has been a mainstay on the European Ryder Cup team since 1991. His overall record is an astounding 20-9-7! Right now, however, things aren’t looking good for Monty as far as the 2008 team goes. He is 53rd on the World Points List and 35th on the European Points List. It’s crazy to think about him not qualifying for the team, but all great things must come to an end. If he doesn’t make a late run and qualify on his own, I’d be surprised if Faldo picks him. There are too many others more deserving this year.

Possible First-Timers
Martin Kaymer has made a big impact in the golf world in 2008, and he is still only 23 years old. He won his first-career European Tour event this season (Abu Dhabi Golf Championship) and finished second to Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic a couple weeks later. Right now, the young German is seventh on the World Points List and ninth on the European Points List. Kaymer has been nothing short of impressive in 2008, and it will be a surprise if he misses out on this year’s Ryder Cup.

Nick Dougherty hasn’t fully lived up to his potential yet, but he has shown flashes of brilliance in recent years. He is currently in decent shape to make the Ryder Cup team as well. The young Englishman is sixth on the European Points List and 14th on the World Points List. If the event started today, he would be on the team. However, there is still work to be done. As a student of Nick Faldo, it will be interesting to see if the captain picks Dougherty if he doesn’t qualify on his own.

The last guy on the list is Soren Hansen. The Denmark native has flown under the radar a little, but he is definitely in striking distance of making his first Ryder Cup team. Right now, he is eighth on the European Points List and 12th on the World Points List. Hansen is a relative unknown to fans in the United States, but he is currently ranked inside the top 50 in the world rankings. He could be a darkhorst this year at Valhalla if he makes the team.

The Final Say
Regardless of who ends up on the European Ryder Cup team, Nick Faldo will have numerous weapons at his disposal. The rankings are stacked with guys who have tasted success in the event, and there a few possible rookies that can step in and play well. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Europeans are lopsided favorites when the time comes, but a lot of things can and probably will happen between now and then.

Like I said in the United States article a few weeks back, it’s near impossible to predict the final team at this stage. However, I’m going to give it a shot anyway. The 10 guys who will qualify through the rankings will be Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Robert Karlsson, Martin Kaymer, Soren Hansen, and Nick Dougherty. The two captain’s picks will be difficult to judge, but I’m guessing Ian Poulter and Darren Clarke. That will leave Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey out in the cold.

It’s your turn to tell me what you think about the current status of the European Ryder Cup team. Which guys will make it on their own, and which guys will be possible captain’s picks? Also, list a few guys not mentioned above that may sneak into the picture in the next couple months. If you have anything to add, please comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week’s Thrash Talk!

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