Luke Donald. David Cannon
Luke Donald, the Team Europe Ryder Cup captain, insists there is still all to play for among those hopefuls looking to land one of the Englishman’s remaining picks to make the squad for the showdown at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Italy.
Donald, who is joined at the Czech Masters this week by vice-captains Nicolas Colsearts and Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, is back playing on the DP World Tour as players try to earn the final of three available spots on the European Points List.
Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have already been confirmed through the top two places on the European Points List, with Viktor Hovland announced as part of the squad heading to Marco Simone next month after becoming the first to qualify on the World Points list.
As it stands, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood occupy the two other available spots on the World Points List, while Robert MacIntyre — who tees up alongside Donald in the first two rounds at Albatross Golf Resort — holds the third and final spot on the European Points list.
With 415 points awarded to the winner of each event, there are mathematically 20 players who could earn that final position with two good weeks. Of that number, 14 are in the field this week, but just six —MacIntyre, Adrian Meronk, Victor Perez, Yannik Paul, Rasmus Hojgaard and Adrian Otaegui — can end this week in the top spot.
For those who don’t secure the necessary points, these two weeks are crucial to impress. The Czech Masters marks the first of those opportunities, and Donald is excited to watch it all unfold.
“There are definitely some spots open,” said Donald. “I was looking at the statistics this morning, someone as low as 23rd on the European Points list, if they won this week and next, still have a statistical chance of making that top three on the list. All to play for, I’d say, and these guys should be chomping at the bit to show up and have some good weeks. The guys on the bubble statistically have the best chance and a strong performance here will go a long way.
“It’s great to see that commitment. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Everyone in their right mind should have playing a Ryder Cup as a goal of theirs. People who have played never want to miss one once they’ve been a part of it. Rookies want to understand how special the event is. A lot of guys who should be playing are playing this week and I’m excited to see how the week unfolds.
“It’s always good to visit new places. I’ve travelled around the world and there’s not too many places I haven’t been to. Prague is one of those. I’m excited to be here this week. It’s a beautiful city, great culture, lots of history, and an important week for me with two weeks left in automatic qualifying. A big week for a lot of the guys, I’m excited to see how they’re playing and how the week ends up.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, the four-horse race for the final two spots on the World Points List continues as Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fizpatrick and Sepp Straka tee up in the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship. The top three are separated by just 20.55 points, with Straka 34.16 points behind Fitzpatrick.
With so many players still in the mix, Donald has plenty of scenarios to consider as he gets ready to welcome his automatic qualifiers and choose his six Captain’s picks. One qualifying has concluded, Donald will name the rest of him team on September 4.
“I’m not sure if it was the jetlag last night or lots of things building up, but I was up for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, lots of things whirring through my head: who I should be talking to, next steps, all that sort of stuff,” he added.
“It’s becoming more and more as the week gets closer. A lot to digest, I’m trying to take it day by day, but it’s an important week. I’m excited to be very close to finalising those 12 guys.”