As we prepare to enter a year which will no doubt be remembered for it’s sporting prevalence in the UK and Europe, we are also entering another Ryder Cup year. Team Europe will travel to the Medinah Club in the latter half of 2012 and the rush for qualification is now well and truly on.
201o’s Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor provided a magnificent spectacle which eventually saw team Europe prosper in a year which marked a major turnaround in global golfing fortunes. Off the back of this success, Europe will now be aiming to further assert their authority with a victory on US turf armed with a team set to include an interesting mix of the world’s highest ranked golfers, some resurgent forces, and some exciting rookies.
No matter what the eventual line up looks like, if the end of this season is anything to go by then Europe’s challenge is set to be very strong and the winning feeling is already building some significant momentum.
World Number one Luke Donald has been the recipient of a whole range of awards in recent weeks, World Number two Lee Westwood has ended his year with a win in Thailand (including an astonishing 12 under par round), Rory McIlroy has established himself as part of the world’s top three with another career win this month and Matchplay supremo Ian Poulter has ended his year with a triumph at the Australian Open.
Couple these recent glories with Martin Kaymer’s continuing stay in the world’s top five, the renaissance taking place in Sergio Garcia’s game and the host of young talent pushing for qualification and things appear very rosy indeed for Team Europe.
If qualification was halted now then those that would make Team Europe would include many of the aforementioned stars as well as some slightly more surprising additions. If this were the case the the team would be as follows; Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Alvaro Quiros, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Simon Dyson, Graeme McDowell and the two captains choices.
Messrs Kaymer, McIlroy, Fdez-Castano, Quiros and Garcia would be qualifying by virtue of currently occupying the top five places on the European qualification list, whilst Donald, Westwood, Rose, Dyson and McDowell would make the team through the World qualification list.
If this were the side that Europe went in with then I think the current Captain Jose Maria Olazabal would fancy his chances of retaining the famous trophy for his team. The dilemma for Jose-Maria come August-September time will be his decision for the two Captain’s selections, and if the standings remained similar to the current predicament when this decision has to be made then his final choice will become interesting.
Players who could be in the reckoning if this were the case could include Ryder Cup veterans Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Bjorn, Open champion Darren Clarke, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, and at the other end of the spectrum rookie options such as the exciting talents of Tom Lewis and Richie Ramsay could be in with a shout.
With such strength in depth being demonstrated by the aforementioned veterans and young-guns, the present and the future seems very bright for European golf and it will be extremely intriguing to see who makes Jose-Maria’s final cut. The fine balance of youth and experience in the potential European side doesn’t only bode
well for 2012 but for future Ryder Cups also, as the more experienced heads will surely make the natural progression on to Team Europe’s coaching team. And while their wealth of experience will strengthen the foundations, the younger specimens will continue to dominate the individual format of the game in global terms and in turn will do Team Europe proud as playing members for many years to come.
Lets look forward to a glorious year of British and European sport, and hopefully another awe-inspiring triumph over the United States come Ryder Cup time. Back-to-back, home and away Ryder Cup successes would be rather enjoyable!