The Ryder Cup is fast approaching as Europe look to defend the trophy they won in such style in Paris. But who will captain Harrington pick? Our writers give their verdicts...
Now that American Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker has finalised his team for the biennial dust-up, it’s over to opposite number Padraig Harrington. The Irishman has until the end of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth to decide who has done enough to represent Team Europe as they look to defend the trophy at Whistling Straits.
However, the choice is far from easy. With only five of the nine automatic places confirmed, a host of names can still take the decision out of Harrington’s hands, while some have the chance to prove they’re in the kind of form required.
With that in mind, some of our writers have had their say on who deserves a pick come Sunday…
Elliott Heath: Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose
Ian Poulter knows he is already on the team, you could tell by his smile during a recent interview at the FedEx Cup Playoffs. You still can’t leave ‘The Postman’ out. That might change in two years but as of now he’s still playing well enough to bring back some points for Europe.
Sergio is also a no-brainer as the Ryder Cup’s all-time leading points scorer. He’s one of the best ball strikers of his era and comes alive in those European colours.
My third pick would have to be Justin Rose. Another experienced head, Rosey is playing decent-enough stuff and I’d be confident of him winning points over 18 holes of matchplay. Thomas Bjorn’s three experienced wildcards last time reminded me that sometimes form in 72-hole strokeplay events isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Neil Tappin: Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger
As things stand, Harrington’s team will have plenty of experience within its automatic qualifiers. This perhaps provides the opportunity to bolster the team with some fresh blood.
However, with Poulter, Garcia and Rose all outside the automatic spaces those rookies also on the outside, notably Weisberger, MacIntyre and Perez will need to feature at the top end of the leaderboard at Wentworth to be considered.
For me a mix of two experienced heads – Poulter and Garcia – with one rookie seems like the right way to go. Choosing between the rookies is tricky, but I’d go for Weisberger – his winning pedigree edges it.
Tom Clarke: Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry and Justin Rose
Sergio Garcia, record points scorer for the Europeans and someone with a huge amount of experience playing in America, will be on the plane. He may not have seen eye-to-eye with Harrington in the past, but this could be a great step forward and bring the whole team together closer.
My second pick is Shane Lowry. He’s in as it stands but if Wiesberger (or anyone else for that matter) pushes the 2019 Open champion out of the team then he will get a pick to make his debut. He continues to play well in the States, thrives on pressure and has an awesome short game. He’s also best mates with the skipper!
If Lowry does need a pick then it will be a shoot-out between Rose and Poulter. Poulter may be ‘The Postman’ but Rose has been showing signs of playing much better of late. He’s been an outstanding Ryder Cupper and it wouldn’t feel right him not being in the team.
Matt Cradock: Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Alex Noren
Garcia is a guarantee. He is Europe’s all-time leading points scorer and has had multiple top-20 finishes of late, including a sixth-place finish at the BMW Championship. No doubt about it, he’s in.
Next up, Ian Poulter has enjoyed some good form with a third-place finish at the Scottish Open and a top-10 at the WGC St. Jude Invitational. Everyone knows he lives for the Ryder Cup and, along with Garcia, is a dead cert for Whistling Straits.
Someone flying under the radar, Alex Noren seems to have found some form in 2021 and has three top-10 finishes in his last five starts, two of which came during the FedEx Cup play-offs. He made his debut at the 2018 Ryder Cup and managed two wins in three matches, including a 1-up win over Bryson DeChambeau.
I feel his game suits the striking set-up of Whistling Straits and he would be a very handy addition to the European team.
Andrew Wright: Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Robert MacIntyre
For me, Poulter and Garcia are absolute locks. It would take an other-worldly event for either one to lose their place on the side. Icons of the game and the Ryder Cup, I expect these two talismanic figures to produce the goods when it matters in Wisconsin.
The third pick is where it gets interesting. A case could be made for a number of players but I’m torn between two. I have a feeling Harrington will go with the experience of Rose despite the Englishman’s recent struggles for form, but I want to make the case for Robert MacIntyre.
The young Scot has proved himself at every level as he’s made his rise through the ranks, winning his first European Tour event and excelling in all seven of his major championship appearances to date. A T8 finish at The Open was followed by a T15 at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational just over a month ago so there’s enough form there.
And let’s not forget he qualified out of a group containing Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Dell Matchplay back in March – this guy isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with the big names. At a course that’s going to play long, MacIntyre’s attacking style makes him a great option to have for Harrington.
Dan Parker: Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose
Ian Poulter and Justin Rose already have their plane tickets booked to Wisconsin, and I’d be surprised if captain Harrington hasn’t already had words with them confirming their places on the team. That leaves one spot and, unlike his opposite number, it feels like Harrington hasn’t got a wealth of options to choose from.
While my heart is with fellow left-hander Bob McIntyre, I think it’s a Ryder Cup too early for the young Scot.
Victor Perez, who would’ve been a shoo-in if the event was held in 2020, has had a rotten season and has unfortunately played himself out of contention.
Wiesberger, Noren and even Guido Migliozzi would be a bit of fun, but this is the Ryder Cup, not a summer’s evening knock with your mates.
That leaves Justin Rose, the safe and secure pick – a familiar friend to us all. He’s your favourite seat in the corner of your favourite pub. In short, you know what you’re getting with Justin Rose and he’ll be a comforting presence.
But this doesn’t mean Rose won’t perform at Whistling Straits, and the fact that he’s a ‘safe’ option I think will be a huge advantage for Team Europe against a team with six rookies.
His foursomes record – winning seven out of nine – speaks for itself, and although his traditional partner Henrik Stenson won’t be there, he’s the kind of character who should pair well with most.
He’s been playing decent enough golf this year to be able to turn it on when we need him, and a positive result at Wentworth this week should give Harrington enough confidence to pick the three-time Ryder Cup winner.