It should have been a special train ride. Adrian Meronk and his girlfriend were sitting in a carriage on the way from Crans-Montana in Switzerland to Geneva, hours after Meronk had finished T-12 at the Omega European Masters, when the call from Luke Donald came in. The European captain delivered to them what was unfortunate news: Meronk was not one of his six captain’s picks.
“I was in shock,” Meronk said. “I was expecting I had pretty decent chance.”
The 30-year-old from Poland had won three DP World Tour events in the past 14 months, two of them during the European team qualification period and the second of those wins coming in May in the Italian Open at the site of this year’s Ryder Cup, Marco Simone outside Rome.
Instead, Donald chose Shane Lowry, Ludvig Aberg, Tommy Fleetwood, Nicolai Højgaard, Justin Rose and Sepp Straka as his captain’s picks. It would appear that Aberg’s late push (T-4 at the Czech Masters and a win at the European Masters) and the strong late play of Højgaard likely left Meronk the odd man out. (Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Robert MacIntyre, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick were the six qualifiers.)
“I heard it was tough for [Donald] as well,” Meronk said. Asked if Donald gave a reason for the omission, Meronk couldn’t remember. The phone call was a blur. “When he said I wasn’t going, I stopped listening, to be honest. He said someone had to stay home. I wouldn’t want to be in his position; it was tough for him.”
Rubbing salt in the wound is the fact Meronk arrived at this week’s Irish Open at the K Club as the defending champion. The DP World Tour revealed Donald’s picks on Monday, while Donald, as well as team members McIlroy, Lowry and Hatton, are in the Irish field.
Needless to say, the past 48 hours have not been fun for Meronk.
“It’s an emotional time for me to be honest,” he said in his press conference Wednesday at the K Club. “[I’ve gone] from shock to sadness to anger to now … It’s a hard one to swallow … I thought I had done enough to be on that team.
“The first half of the day [Monday] was sadness and disbelief. The last year and a half I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. It was my goal. I realized it’s not going to happen this year.”
Meronk’s team was also saddened by the news, excited to celebrate the fact the tour pro would have been the first Polish golfer to play in a Ryder Cup.
“People didn’t take [the news] well; everyone was disappointed,” he said. “A couple people [said] they’d already bought tickets because they were sure I was going to be there. But a lot of players and tour caddies, coaches, staff, have been very supportive.”
Many former observers took to social media suggesting Højgaard’s pick over Meronk was the head-scratcher.
Adrian Meronk won the Australian, Irish and Italian Opens, has 5 other top 10s, is 3rd on the Race to Dubai and has won at the host venue, yet he hasn’t received a captains pick for the Ryder Cup in Rome. Regardless of your opinion, it’s been an incredible breakout season for… pic.twitter.com/j0XYuYqLJM
— Flushing It (@flushingitgolf) September 4, 2023
Meronk would appear to have been more in-form than the Dane; he sits higher in both the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai (3 vs. 15) and the Official World Golf Rankings (51 vs. 78). Many pointed to the fact Højgaard has also won the Italian Open at Marco Simone. But that was 2021, and Højgaard’s most recent win was in the Middle East 18 months ago.
Meronk said there wasn’t much else he could have done. He played seven PGA Tour events outside the majors, which caused him to miss out on some chances to earn qualifying points. The DP World Tour runs the European side of the Ryder Cup and set the selection criteria for this edition as six qualifiers—three on World Points and three on European points—along with six captain’s picks.
“I don’t regret that. I wanted to grow my game and get comfortable playing in US,” countered Meronk, who will likely secure one of 10 PGA Tour cards through the season-long DP World Tour standings under the two tours’ strategic alliance. “Next time, I’ll focus more on getting that spot through qualifying and not lean on a pick. I’ll be more focused on playing more counting events. That’s the only thing I could have think of.”
Which leaves the question, how does he focus on his Irish Open title defence this week?
“It’s not easy. I haven’t experienced it before,” he said. “I’m fighting emotions inside of me. This is a great venue, great tournament, but [the Ryder Cup] is still somewhere in back of my mind. Hopefully, I’ll be ready. I wish them [European team] good luck, and I’m going to focus on my game and move forward. I’m trying to turn it into motivation coming into this week.”