Ryder Cup: How the teams would have looked at Whistling Straits this weekend

By Sports Desk September 25, 2020

This weekend should have seen the 43rd Ryder Cup taking place at Whistling Straits.

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the sporting calendar eventually led to the postponement of golf's most prestigious team event.

Team Europe, captained by Padraig Harrington, will instead defend the trophy in a year's time against Team USA, who will be skippered by Steve Stricker.

Here, we take a look at who would have qualified for their respective teams so far if the Ryder Cup were starting on Friday.

TEAM USA:

Qualification process explained:

The PGA of America and team captain Stricker announced a tweak to the qualification process following the pause of the season caused by the pandemic. All points collected since 2019 will continue to stand and the selection criteria will continue to run through the second 2021 FedEx Cup playoff event (the BMW Championship). The top six on the points list will qualify automatically, with Stricker having six captain's picks.

1) Dustin Johnson

A veteran of four Ryder Cups but only one that resulted in an American victory – that coming in 2016 at Hazeltine. Since the PGA Tour resumed, Johnson has been in tremendous form and became champion of the lucrative FedEx Cup.

2) Bryson DeChambeau

A man of unquestionable talent, whose methodical game has not always sat well with pundits and fellow professionals. But after breaking his major duck at the U.S. Open last weekend, even his greatest detractors have to give kudos to DeChambeau, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 2018.

3) Collin Morikawa 

It has been a truly breakout year for 23-year-old Morikawa, who became a major champion by winning the US PGA Championship.  That saw him reach a career-high ranking of fifth (he now sits sixth in the world) and if he can maintain his form, Morikawa will be an exciting Ryder Cup rookie.

4) Brooks Koepka

Injuries have sadly taken a toll on Koepka either side of the coronavirus break but on his day the four-time major winner is unbeatable. A fully fit Koepka, who has appeared at two Ryder Cups, will be a formidable foe for anyone on Team Europe and fans the world over will want to see him firing on all cylinders. 

5) Justin Thomas

Already a major champion by the time he appeared at the 2018 Ryder Cup as a rookie, Thomas was a starring light for a struggling American team as he earned four points on debut. Now established among the game's elite, Thomas will be a main man for Stricker as Team USA aim to regain the trophy.

6) Webb Simpson

A player who has enjoyed a career resurgence and made a third Ryder Cup appearance in 2018 having missed out two years prior. Ranked seventh in the world and with a couple of wins to his name in 2020, Simpson looks a pretty sure bet to play regardless of if he qualifies automatically.

Likely captain's picks?

Stricker has an abundance of talent to choose from and, if qualification ended today, Xander Schauffele would be an almost guaranteed pick. Patrick Reed is next in the standings and, while his talent is undoubted, his seeming struggle to play nicely with others in the team would possibly be a cause of concern for the captain. Tiger Woods is way down in 15th and struggling for form but could a player of his calibre earn a lifeline? The likes of Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Matthew Wolff would hope to receive a call but Jordan Spieth – down in 25th – needs to find some consistency.

TEAM EUROPE:

Qualification process explained:

For Team Europe, the criteria are different. The process was frozen in July until January, with points earned up until that point remaining valid. The top four in the European points standings qualify, as do the next five highest ranking players on the world points list. Captain Padraig Harrington picks the final three players for the team. Points multipliers may be added to European Tour events closer to the Ryder Cup.

1) Tommy Fleetwood

One half of the 'Moliwood' pairing alongside Francesco Molinari that won hearts, and crucially plenty of points, for a dominant Team Europe in 2018. Fleetwood was in fine form towards the back end of 2019 and the start of 2020 but has struggled since golf returned. Still, with plenty of points accrued and time to find form, Fleetwood looks sure to play.

2) Jon Rahm

Rahm picked up a single point from three matches as a rookie two years ago and will be desperate to make a mark in an event where his Spanish compatriots Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia have become so synonymous. With two wins in 2020 and a brief stop as world number one for the first time, Rahm is now a major European player. 

3) Rory McIlroy

A veteran now of five Ryder Cups, four of which ended in victory, McIlroy will be the leading man in Europe's quest to retain the trophy. He was in flying form prior to lockdown and a top 10 at the U.S. Open suggests McIlroy is again on an upward trajectory.

4) Victor Perez

An outstanding rookie season in 2019, including a win at the Alfred Dunhill Links, has left Perez in a strong position. But struggles in 2020 will have to be solved if he is to be a part of Harrington's team a year from now.

5) Tyrrell Hatton

Having earned a taste of the Ryder Cup two years ago, where he won one point from three matches, Hatton will be desperate to make the team once again. With five top-10s in 2020, including winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he has every chance of doing so.

6) Danny Willett

Having missed seven cuts from his previous 10 events, Willett is a player who will have to raise his game in 2021 to play at a second Ryder Cup.

7) Matthew Fitzpatrick

A rookie during the losing effort in 2016, Fitzpatrick failed to make the team two years ago. At the minute, the Sheffield-born star has his destiny in his own hands. With three top-10s and as many missed cuts in the past six starts, consistency will be key.

8) Lee Westwood

A real veteran of Team Europe, Lee Westwood played in 10 straight Ryder Cups between 1997 and 2016, ending up on the winning side on seven occasions. Even if he fails to make the automatic spots, if he can stay in decent form then his experience could convince Harrington to hand out a captain's pick.

9) Bernd Wiesberger

A three-time European Tour winner in 2019, Wiesberger – who has never played at a Ryder Cup – will be desperate to rediscover that groove to make the team.

Likely captain's picks?

Ryder Cup legends Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are well off the pace for automatic picks but if either man can hit form at the right time then their experience would likely be too invaluable for Harrington to ignore. Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson are both knocking on the door and would fancy their chances of making the team without the need of a hand from Harrington.

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