Big week ahead but it's not make or break for Bob MacIntyre's career

This is it. Twelve months later than scheduled, Europe’s team for the 43rd Ryder Cup will be decided by this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Bob MacIntyre has been on European captain Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup rardar since they played in the same group in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Bob MacIntyre has been on European captain Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup rardar since they played in the same group in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Even without an exciting sideshow, it’s a special event and not just because it is staged at a venue where the European Tour has its headquarters.

As you would probably expect for a tournament being held in the Surrey ‘Stockbroker Belt’, it has a real touch of class in every single aspect and rightly so.

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Exceptionally good golf is required to get the business done on the West Course at Wentworth, where Tyrrell Hatton will be the defending champion on this occasion after his title triumph in 2019.

US captain Steve Stricker and European counterpart Padraig Harrington will both finalise their teams this week for the contest at Whistling Straits later this month. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images,.

Hatton has already secured his spot on that Ryder Cup team, as have Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood.

Shane Lowry is the other player currently in one of the automatic berths, but the Irishman still has work to do to stay there and we’ll come round to that.

First things first, though. European captain Padraig Harrington will be absolutely delighted with how things currently stand in respect of those automatic berths for the upcoming clash with the Americans at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

For starters, he’s got the world No 1 in Rahm in his ranks and the Spaniard, having taken down Tiger Woods in the singles on his debut in Paris in 2018, is ready to take on the role of team leader as Europe defend the trophy on the west bank of Lake Michigan.

Fleetwood, McIlroy, Casey and Westwood have all risen to the occasion in the biennial event in the past as well, while Fitzpatrick is way better equipped now than he was when making his debut at Hazeltine in 2016.

Of those definitely in the team to take on Steve Stricker’s side in his home state, that leaves Hovland as the sole rookie and we don’t need to worry about the Norwegian taking stage fright as he’s a class act.

Which brings us round to those final few pieces in Harrington’s jigsaw and, based on the way he’s played over the past few months, you’ve really got to say that Lowry deserves a spot one way or another.

He’d be another rookie, but let’s remember we are talking about a major winner here and, like Hovland, you wouldn’t need to be concerned in the slightest about the 2019 Open champion having the mettle for a Ryder Cup debut on US soil.

In short, Harrington will probably be happy if those automatic standings stay as they are at the conclusion of the Wentworth event, with the Irishman announcing his three captain’s picks a couple of hours later on Sunday night.

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For my money, and I’m certainly alone in thinking this way heading into this week’s Rolex Series event, two of those spots have already been secured by Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia.

Poulter, who was back to his best as a Ryder Cupper in Paris, has played some brilliant golf this year while Garcia making it to the Tour Championship in the US despite missing The Masters due to Covid was a good indication of his 2021 form.

There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever for either of those two players to be overlooked and let’s not forget that Garcia etched his name in the record books as Europe’s record points-scorer in the event after being handed a pick by Thomas Bjorn in Paris when his form that year had been patchy.

Effectively, then, just one spot is up for grabs this week, but what a battle that is going to be as past Ryder Cup players in Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren and Danny Willett give it one final big push along with potential rookies in Bob MacIntyre, Bernd Wiesberger, Victor Perez, Guido Miggliozi and Rasmus Hojgaard.

Make no mistake, Harrington and his vice captains like what they see in MacIntyre, both as a player and a human being, and it is a terrific achievement that he’s in the mix heading into the final lap just a few weeks after turning 25.

He’s shown what he is capable of on the game’s biggest stages, with three top-12 finishes in majors already under his belt, but, and he knows this himself, it is almost certainly going to take something special this week for him to be on the plane heading to Wisconsin.

If he succeeds, absolutely brilliant. If not, no damage will have been done. The young man from Oban has an incredible attitude for someone who is still relatively new to life at the top level in his sport and there will be no sulking or spitting out a dummy.

In truth, a Ryder Cup appearance in this edition would be way ahead of schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely think he’d handle the occasion at Whistling Straits because there’s something in him that brings out the best when the heat is really on.

However, this most certainly isn’t a make or break week for MacIntyre in terms of his career, and the same goes for 2019 Scottish Open champion Wiesberger, Dundee-based Frenchman Perez and three-time European Tour winner Hojgaard.

The clock is ticking for the likes of Westwood, Poulter, Casey, Garcia, Rose, Stenson and Molinari, and, with that in mind, a new crop of Ryder Cup players will probably be needed for Rome in 2023, by which time some exciting young talent around at the moment will not only be ready and even better equipped but also champing at the bit to face the Americans.

Talking of them, Stricker already has Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and newly-crowned FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay as his six automatic qualifiers.

Having added Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples to his assistant captains last week, Stricker is set to announce his six picks on Wednesday, with Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Patrick Reed and Daniel Berger next on the final points qualifying list.

Ryder Cup fever is about to hit, and another enthralling Solheim Cup is whetting appetites.

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