Ian Poulter has overtaken Paul Casey to currently occupy the final Ryder Cup automatic qualification spot


Ian Poulter Moves Into European Ryder Cup Automatic Spots

The USPGA Championship took place last week at Bellerive Country Club and it turned out to have big implications on Thomas Bjorn’s European Ryder Cup side.

Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter managed to knock Paul Casey out of the automatic qualifying spots with a T31st finish.

He has missed just one cut since the Valspar Championship and won the Houston Open and has had nine top-25 finishes in that spell.

Poults, who was ruled out of the 2016 Ryder Cup with injury.

Instead of playing on the side at Hazeltine, the ‘Postman’ as he’s known was a vice-captain to Darren Clarke.

He has moved into the final spot via the World Points List.

As it stands, Francesco Molinairi, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood are in via the European Points list and Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and now Ian Poulter are in via the World Points List.

Obviously that can change before the deadline of the Made in Denmark tournament which finishes on 2nd September.

If Casey doesn’t manage to get back into the automatic places, he’d likely get a wildcard pick considering he is the seventh-highest ranked European in the world (currently #15) and has played in three Ryder Cups.

He also represented Europe in the 2017 EurAsia Cup which was captained by Thomas Bjorn – I’d say that top nine looks fairly certain to all play at Le Golf National.

The closest man on the bubble of automatic qualification is Thorbjorn Olesen, who won the Italian Open in early June and was T3rd at the recent WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Olesen was also T2nd at the BMW International Open and T6th at the Irish Open. The Dane, now ranked 41st in the world, may well secure an automatic spot with some good finishes in the next three weeks.

He is also very close with Thomas Bjorn being compatriots.

Rafa Cabrera Bello is also close to that final spot and a T17 and T10 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and USPGA Championship has furthered his cause to be a wildcard pick even if he doesn’t manage to automatically qualify.

Cabrera Bello comes with experience in the Ryder Cup which is looking essential this year considering that Europe will likely have four rookies in their eight automatic qualifiers to the USA’s one rookie, who happens to be nine-time PGA Tour winner and former world number one Justin Thomas!

Other men close to the automatic spots include Irish Open winner Russell Knox, who missed out on the 2016 Ryder Cup despite ranking inside the world’s top 20, as well as Eddie Pepperell and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia are currently well outside of the automatic spots so a win, or at least some good finishes, in the remaining tournaments will increase their hopes after both missing the cut at the USPGA Championship.

Remaining tournaments before the eight automatic qualifiers are finalised:

Nordea Masters: 16th – 19th August

Czech Masters: 23rd – 26th August

Made In Denmark: 30th August – 2nd September

Again, something to remember is that of the current eight automatic qualifiers, four of them would be rookies – Hatton, Fleetwood, Rahm and Noren.

As I mentioned, the USA’s first eight only features one rookie and Jim Furyk will pick almost certainly Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as wildcards, meaning there will be a maximum of three rookies on the side.

Last time out at Hazeltine, Darren Clarke’s side had six rookies which Thomas Bjorn may not wish to replicate.

That puts the likes of Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia in a good position.

Ryder Cup experience needs to be added to the side but Garcia and Stenson in particular need to show Thomas Bjorn some form before being selected.

Stenson has been struggling with an elbow injury this year but had made his last nine cuts prior to the USPGA and finished T5th at the Masters and T6th at the US Open. He also comes with heaps of experience and would surely team up nicely with compatriot Alex Noren.

On a similar front, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm would be quite a handy team in the fourballs. Garcia has missed seven cuts this year but did have a T8th at the Open de France – played at Le Golf National of course.

Thomas Pieters may well have punched his ticket to Paris with his T6 finish at the USPGA Championship, especially when you consider that he won four points from five matches as a rookie in 2016.

The Belgian was a massive hit at Hazeltine and would be another man with Ryder Cup experience and form heading into the event.

A lot has been said in the past two years about Alex Levy, who is the only Frenchman with a realistic chance of making a home Ryder Cup appearance.

Levy is a five-time winner on the European Tour, most recently at the Trophee Hassan II in April, but his form has dropped off since that victory, missing five cuts.

Other names who may need a win or two in the next few weeks include Paul Dunne, Matt Wallace and 2016 Ryder Cuppers Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan.

The team as it stands…

Francesco Molinari
Justin Rose
Tyrrell Hatton
Tommy Fleetwood
Rory McIlroy
Jon Rahm
Alex Noren
Ian Poulter

Who do you think will grab the last remaining spots on the European Ryder Cup side? As always, let us know your thoughts on the Golf Monthly social channels.

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