BMW PGA: Lee Westwood worried about 'draining' Ryder Cup battle
It’s all become a lot more complicated than Padraig Harrington would probably have wanted. What seemed like a pretty straightforward scenario for Europe’s Ryder Cup captain in the final qualifying event has turned into a guddle.
At the halfway stage in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, five of Harrington’s nine automatic spots for the match at Whistling Straits later this month have now been locked in by Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey.
A nervy weekend, meanwhile, lies ahead for Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry, with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger the man making them feel uncomfortable in the final two rounds of the $8 million Rolex Series event.
Should Wiesberger finish 50th or better - and the 2019 Scottish Open champion is currently tied for 18th - he will go above McIlroy, who is not playing here, on the European points list in the qualifying battle.
That would mean McIlroy qualified via the world points list instead of Lowry, who could then knock Westwood out in a complex system.
Westwood, who is bidding to face the Americans for an 11th time, showed his mettle by coming home in 33 after finding himself outside the cut at the turn, but the European No 1 has questioned the draining effect this week could have on players.
“There’s so many variables with the way we’ve set up the qualification this time around,” he said. “This tournament is heavily loaded compared to everything else we’ve done and I think it’s something to maybe look at in the future.
“Some of the guys here don’t need this week, right now. Knowing what the Ryder Cup is like, they don’t need this two weeks before the Ryder Cup. It is going to be draining for a few and you want to be going into the Ryder Cup fresh.”
Speaking before Belgian Thomas Detry, who was among the players who started the week still in contention, was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score, Westwood added: “You can see how players are reacting to it. You know there’s people right in there shooting scores where clearly they have got other things on their mind.”
Lowry, who also has his destiny in his own hands, having carded a second-round 66 to sit in the top 10, concurred. “There’s almost too many points available, especially for someone like me who is in the team,” said the 2019 Open champion.
“Look, it is what it is. We’ve known it for the last couple of years. Obviously I want to make the team automatically. I know there’s obviously a few permutations.
“I’ve put my hand up as much as I could and it’s up to Paddy what he wants to do on Sunday evening. Hopefully, I don’t need that pick and, first and foremost, I can go out and do the business and win the tournament.”
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who, of course, is not in the Ryder Cup equation, leads the title battle on 12-under, one ahead of England’s Laurie Canter and Italian Francesco Laporta.
However, the main intrigue surrounds that fight for Ryder Cup spots and Graeme McDowell, one of Harrington’s vice-captains, admitted that some of the plans that had been put in place for Europe’s defence of the trophy in Wisconsin might need to be torn up,
“I’m not sure I’d have wanted as many variables if I was the captain,” he said. “I’m not sure I’d have wanted so many question marks cropping up two weeks before the match.
“Obviously it is fantastic for Wentworth and the BWW PGA Championship. But I’d liked to have had eight or nine of my guys locked in by now. Let the (wildcard) picks get after it this week, but hey, it’s exciting stuff.”
Unfortunately for Bob MacIntyre, his Ryder Cup race looks to have been run after missing the cut, meaning he now has little chance of securing a captain’s pick.
Despite suffering the same fate - defending champion Tyrrell Hatton was another of the casualties - Ian Poulter should still get the nod from Harrington, though.
Stephen Gallacher and David Drysdale are the leading Scots heading into the weekend on four-under, one ahead of both David Law and Richie Ramsay, with Grant Forrest also progressing on two-under.
“I played lovely today,” said Gallacher after signing for a 67. “I never missed a shot on the front nine and was out in three-under having missed two putts inside probably six feet.”
Describing the condition of the Wentworth course as “phenomenal”, the 2014 Ryder Cup player is hoping to kick on over the weekend at the venue where his uncle Bernard has a statue on the first tee to mark his time as the club’s professional.
“If I play like that anyway,” he replied to being asked if he could get himself in the mix over the final 36 holes. “I have worked hard this week with wee Alan (McCloskey). I’ve spent a lot of time on the range and, though it’s been knackering, I hit it really good today. There’s a lot of promising signs.
“This is my 25th season and I’ve got my 600th event in a month’s time. I think you do doubt yourself every now and again through just getting old. I’m 47 in November.
“But it’s days like this that show you are still hitting it long enough and you definitely take heart from shooting five-under on a tough track. I think that makes you believe you can still do it.
Drysdale, who sits six spots outside the all-important top 125 as he bids to retain his card for the 18th consecutive season, had also been pleased with his work so far in the $8 million event.
“I want to be here for the weekend at every event, but you absolutely want to be around for the weekend here,” said Gallacher’s fellow 46-year-old, who was chuffed with his birdie-birdie finish.
“The last few cuts I made on the UK Swing I had two good rounds out of four so hopefully I can have four here.”
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