Ryder Cup wildcards looking to shine at BMW Championship
Twenty-three of the 24 of the players who will contest the 2018 Ryder Cup are now known – with just a solitary pick from USA captain Jim Furyk still to come.
Two former Champion Golfers of the Year – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – were selected alongside the in-form Bryson DeChambeau as three American wildcards on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the eight automatic European qualifiers were confirmed over the weekend before Thomas Bjorn’s quartet of wildcard choices were announced on Wednesday.
Experience was the order of the day for Bjorn with a trio of 40-somethings – Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson – as well as 38-year-old Sergio Garcia making up his foursome.
Many of these wildcards will be looking to justify their selection, in addition to collecting crucial FedEx Cup points, at the BMW Championship this weekend ahead of the battle at Le Golf National in three weeks’ time.
European wildcards gearing up for ‘greatest battle’
While Garcia won’t be in action this weekend, Bjorn’s other three wildcards are heading Stateside to Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania for the penultimate FedEx Cup play-off.
With only the top 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings qualifying for the lucrative Tour Championship in a fortnight’s time, strong performances from Poulter (currently ranked 45th) and Stenson (60th) will be required to make the cut.
Stenson – who edged out Mickelson in a memorable Sunday duel at The 145th Open at Royal Troon – has been battling an elbow injury this season but that didn’t stop him being selected for a fifth Ryder Cup.
And the ice-cool Swede didn’t hold back in hyping up the magnitude of the occasion at Le Golf National.
“It means a lot,” he said of selection. “I've got some of my greatest memories from being part of the European Ryder Cup team.
“Europe has as strong a team as we've ever had, so does the American team, so it's set to be the greatest battle ever."
Casey’s best finish at The Open remains finishing tied third at St Andrews back in 2010 but he’s currently ranked 16th in the world after enjoying a career renaissance that includes a second PGA Tour win back in March.
The 41-year-old is nicely placed to reach the Tour Championship at 17th in the FedEx Cup rankings and is looking to keep his form going.
“I only wanted to be part of the Ryder Cup team if I thought I could be a really big contribution to that and I know I can be,” he said.
“I'm really excited to be back somewhere where I belong. I can't tell you how much I'm up for this."
Tiger on the prowl once more
Woods’ consistent good form since the start of the year has seen him named in a playing capacity for the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012.
The three-time Champion Golfer of the Year is still looking for his first tournament win since a return from injury but finishes of tied-fourth at the Quicken Loans National, tied-sixth at The Open Championship and second at the PGA Championship in the last two months suggest this could be the weekend.
And the 42-year-old is certainly on a high after securing Ryder Cup selection.
“At the beginning of this year one of my goals was to make this team,” said Woods.
“I got the call from Jim [Furyk, Team USA captain], asking if I would be a vice-captain and I said ‘Absolutely, I’ll do anything to help you’, but also, deep down I wanted to make the team. I really wanted to play on it. It was a goal.
“As the year progressed I have gained some traction and was somehow able to get some high finishes. Lo and behold I’m part of this team. It’s beyond special for me.”
Tiger Woods plans on bringing the Ryder Cup back home. pic.twitter.com/urecCsdNWi— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 4, 2018
Bryson gunning for three on the spin
Meanwhile, DeChambeau became the first man since Vijay Singh in 2008 to win the first two events of the FedEx Cup play-offs by clinching The Northern Trust and then the Dell Technologies Championship in the last fortnight.
As the most in-form man in world golf, the 24-year-old was a simple selection for Furyk to make his Ryder Cup debut and there’s no reason why he couldn’t make it three victories in a row at the BMW Championship this weekend.
“I wouldn’t have written it any better, to be honest with you,” DeChambeau said. “I’ve been playing some great golf this whole year. And I knew it was a matter of time before something cool showed up.
“If I keep playing my game, I’m going to be tough to beat.”
European Tour heads to Switzerland
On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Tour goes to Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Switzerland for the Omega European Masters.
There are plenty of big names in the field including Edoardo Molinari – brother of reigning Champion Golfer Francesco – and winner of The Open in 1995 - John Daly.
Perhaps the most interesting Thursday group is a threesome who can all consider themselves unlucky to have missed out on a Ryder Cup wildcard – Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters and last week’s winner Matt Wallace.
Fitzpatrick is defending champion at the European Masters and is keen to climb the winner’s podium once more.
“I feel like I have been playing solidly all year really, I've just not had any momentum or anything go my way, and not making the important putts unfortunately," he said.
“Hopefully I can do that this week and kick on for the rest of the year and pick up a win.”Practice Day tickets are still available for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 and remember, when you buy your tickets for The Open with Mastercard, you will receive a £5 discount per transaction.