It looks like Ryder Cup squad has four spots up for grabs - Team Europe is certainly in good hands
It was aimed at providing the new wave of young European professionals a taste of a team event as they bid to become Ryder Cup players one day. For some, that dream will come true in Rome later this year, while for others it might take a little bit more time. but that doesn’t matter.
It’s about trying to build a strong future for Europe in the biennial event and, based on what was on display over three days at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, people should feel confident about that.
A hammering at the hands of the Americans last time out at Whistling Straits was evidence that time was up for some of the old guard, even though they’d been superb servants in the event.
Yes, of course, it might take time for the new wave to find their feet when it comes to experiencing what is arguably the biggest pressure in golf, but, as the Hero Cup showed, the talent is certainly there.
Italian Guido Migliozzi and Dane Nicolai Hojgaard, for instance, and also Scotland’s pride and joy, Bob MacIntyre. Oh, and let’s not forget the Dundee-based Frenchman, Victor Perez.
They were among the star performers in the contest won by Continental Europe over Great Britain and Ireland and it will now be a case of putting the pedal to the floor for all of them as they try to make that Ryder Cup team in September.
Based on what he saw in the UAE, Donald won’t mind having any of that quartet – Englishman Jordan Smith, too – as rookies at Marco Simone Golf Club and it will be exciting to see how the year unfolds for all of them.
Equally pleasing for Donald as he oversaw the Hero Cup were the playing performances of the two captains, Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, the pair dubbed ‘Moliwood’ following their heroics in the 2018 Ryder Cup in France.
Apparently, Molinari was joking to Fleetwood that he’d found a “younger and better partner” in Hojgaard as they gelled brilliantly in both the fourballs and foursomes and Italian’s return to form was the week’s Brucie bonus.
As things stand, you’ve got to think that Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland are all lock-ins for Rome, where Donald would also probably feel happier if he had Fleetwood, Molinari, Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry in his ranks.
Yes, Lowry had a Hero Cup to forget as he lost all four of his games, but the Irishman is a classy performer, having developed a knack of landing big wins, notably the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.
That would leave four spots to fill and it really is going to be fascinating to see how the remainder of the qualifying battle pans out before the attention turns to the captain making six picks.
There’s still a chance, of course, that someone not involved in the Hero Cup could still catapult themselves into contention and, with a Rolex Series double-header in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, that will be on the minds of many players as they now get their 2023 campaign started.
Don’t you just love a Ryder Cup year!
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