Thursday, December 31, 2015

 Europe team could have a youthful look for 
2016 Ryder Cup match at Hazeltine, Minnesota

The 2016 Ryder Cup match at Hazeltine might be months away, yet eyes are already glancing towards the Points Race, such is the excitement and anticipation that the contest generates.
The race to qualify for European captain Darren Clarke’s team began back in August at the M2M Russian Open, and will reach its conclusion at the aptly atmospheric Made in Denmark tournament in August 2016.
With so many emerging stars making big impressions on the European Tour in 2015, we have taken a closer look at which players currently occupy the automatic qualifying positions, while also profiling some of the other strong contenders for a seat on the plane to Minnesota.

The European Points List, from which the leading four members will qualify, makes for fascinating reading. Seeing Rory McIlroy’s name at the top of it will not come as a surprise to anyone, and a resurgent Victor Dubuisson occupies second spot, largely thanks to his fine win in the Turkish Airlines Open.
In third place is Matthew Fitzpatrick, the young Englishman who enjoyed a sensational maiden season on the European Tour, winning the British Masters  en route to finishing 12th in the Race to Dubai.
No other player in 2015 hit more fairways than the Sheffield youngster, and that sort of form has earned him a place in the European team for the EurAsia Cup in January, where Clarke will be able to run the rule over his ability to handle the pressure of a major team event.
There is arguably no better judge of match play prowess than Ian Poulter, star of five Ryder Cups, who said: “It wouldn't be a shock to see Matt in the Ryder Cup team. He won a big tournament and he won it well.”
Move down the list one spot and you will find another Englishman in Andy Sullivan, who also enjoyed a spectacular 2015, winning three times to take eighth place in the Race to Dubai and ending the campaign with a thrilling performance in the DP World Tour Championship, where he was runner-up after a captivating duel with Rory McIlroy.
The likeable 28 year old, who is nicknamed the Smiling Assassin, has also made it into the EurAsia Cup team and will hope to make a big impression on Clarke.
Below fourth place, the next three spots are occupied by rookies – Chris Wood, Kristoffer Broberg and Danny Willett, so we could well see a young and exciting team at Hazeltine.

The World Points List, however, is a more familiar picture a third of the way through qualifying, with Henrik Stenson, McIlroy and Justin Rose occupying the top three places.
Five players are taken from the World List, and with McIlroy and fourth-placed Fitzpatrick already in, Wood is in position to make his Ryder Cup bow, thanks to a brilliant display in the Nedbank Golf Challenge earlier this month.
The Englishman was in bed on a drip on the Tuesday evening and gave himself no chance of playing after struggling with severe dehydration in the searing heat, but recovered to take third place and with it the biggest pay cheque of his career.
In sixth and seventh are Dubuisson and Sullivan, who are already in through the European Points List, meaning Broberg and Willett would be in line to join Clarke’s charges. 
Broberg, who blitzed through the Challenge Tour in 2012, made his European Tour breakthrough at the BMW Masters, while Willett had a superb season with two victories en route to second place in the Race to Dubai.
With eight months, four Majors, two World Golf Championships and a host of other lucrative events yet to play before the team is finalised, much is bound to change, but judging by the way the race has started, what’s left makes the mouth water.



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