Ryder Cup razzmatazz means Wentworth week will be cracker for fans
Two years ago, the Rolex Series event was the final qualifier for the Ryder Cup, with Padraig Harrington announcing his captain’s picks for that match at Whistling Straits a couple of hours after the winning putt had been holed.
Yes, that added an extra layer of excitement for the fans at one of the best attended tournaments on the circuit, but, at the same time, it quickly overshadowed a brilliant victory by Billy Horschel as he became the first American to win a Rolex Series event and only the second American to claim this coveted title.
This time around, the Ryder Cup race is done and dusted and, with those dozen players on Luke Donald’s team all in the field, it promises to be a belter of a week for the spectators in particular at the $9 million event.
With both line ups now finalised, the countdown clock is ticking for the eagerly-awaited contest at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome in just over a fortnight’s time, with the Americans having paid a visit there at the weekend and the Europeans doing likewise on Monday.
Donald and Zach Johnson will now both have a good idea about some of their pairings and, even though they will be competing individually at Wentworth, it will be fascinating to see some of the groups for the opening two rounds as they could well indicate who could be spending time together in the heat of battle in the 44th edition of the Ryder Cup.
Take out the Ryder Cup factor and any event that is being headlined by Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, the world No 2 and No 3 respectively, is always going to be an exciting proposition, with fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland adding to the mouth-watering menu as he makes his first appearance on European soil as the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup winner.
With that trio being joined by an English Ryder Cup quartet in Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose, as well as the captain himself, of course, the three-lined fairways on the iconic West Course will be buzzing as the build up to Rome gets real because, let’s not kid ourselves, there’s no event in golf that comes close to a transatlantic tussle and next week’s Solheim Cup promises to another cracker at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
Having been handed a timely boost by his performance in the Horizon Irish Open, Shane Lowry will now be relishing his title defence thia week after some doubted whether he deserved one of Donald’s picks while the likes of Sepp Straka, Ludvig Aberg, Nicolai Hojgaard and Bob MacIntyre will also be hoping to produce big performances in order to rubber stamp why they’ve earned the opportunity to be Ryder Cup rookies.
Lots of eyeballs from Thursday onwards will be on Aberg and rightly so after a meteoric rise in his short professional career, but it’s a challenge he’ll be relishing and the same certainly goes for MacIntyre, who handled the pressure of being the man with a target on his back in the final few weeks of the qualifying campaign admirably but can now go out and play with a bit more freedom again.
The odd eyebrow has been raised about the Oban man having decided to also play in next week’s Cazoo Open de France, but I think that’s a good call. For starters, he’s someone who seems to play better at the end of a stretch of events than the start so taking next week off might not necessarily have been the best thing for him. Secondly, he’s going to Le Golf National next week and, if the 2018 Ryder Cup is anything to go by, then the test there should set him up very nicely indeed for Marco Simone.
This week’s event will also give fans a glimpse of some of the players who might be pushing for the 2025 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black on Long Island in New York because, boy, has it been a successful few weeks for some of the other up-and-coming stars on the DP World Tour. Vincent Norrman, a double winner in the space of just 56 days, has joined Aberg in delivering Swedish success while English duo Dan Brown and Todd Clements both landed maiden victories. Oh, and let’s not forget Alex Fitzpatrick, Matt’s younger brother, because, in addition to winning on the Challenge Tour, he’s also made his presence felt on leaderboards on the main tour and looks as though he’s set to go from strength to strength.
Add in the likes of Tob McKibbin, an impressive first-time winner in Germany in June, and, of course, Adrian Meronk, Yannik Paul and Alexander Bjork after they all came close to making this team and there is certainly an exciting crop of European players who look hungry for success and that, of course, is what breeds confidence for big stages like a Ryder Cup.
There’s no reason, either, why the likes of Grant Forrest and Connor Syme can’t be pushing strongly in two years’ time. With the latest one having come in the aforementioned Irish Open, Forrest has now recorded five top-ten finishes this season. As a result, he’s well on his way to playing in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November after finding his best form again following a sluggish 2022 campaign. Syme, meanwhile, has just landed back-to-back top tens, so he will be bounding into Wentworth with a spring in his step.
Few people won’t, in fact, because this really is one of the special weeks of the season and the 2023 edition could be one of the best yet.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.