The quest to join Paul McGinley’s European Ryder Cup team begins this week at the scene of one of Europe’s greatest victories as The Celtic Manor Resort’s Twenty Ten Course hosts the ISPS Handa Wales Open.
It was just under three years ago that Graeme McDowell holed that unforgettable birdie putt on the 16th in his final singles match against Hunter Mahan to take a two up lead on the American with two to play. Ten minutes later, The Ryder Cup was back in European hands as McDowell closed out the match to deliver the decisive point in Europe’s 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory.
After following that epic win in Wales with the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, every European player in the field will now be turning their attention to making the perfect start to the qualify for the team that will defend The Ryder Cup in 13 months’ time at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland.
McGinley will be in Wales to run the rule over the early contenders who can make a fast start to the qualification process that will identify nine automatic qualifiers – four from the European Points list and five from the World Points List, leaving McGinley to complete his team with three Captain’s picks.
The European Points List will award every eligible European Tour Member a point for every euro earned in Official Race to Dubai tournaments starting at the ISPS Handa Wales Open and concludes on Sunday, August 31, 2014; while the World Points List is determined by the amount of Official World Ranking Points earned by European Tour Members between August 26, 2013 and the final Race to Dubai counting event concluding on August 31, 2014. (click here for full eligibility criteria)
It is sure to be a thrilling campaign and McGinley is certainly relishing watching his team take shape over the next 12 months.
“This is another significant milestone in my captaincy and it is going to be an exciting campaign to see who can make the team for Gleneagles next year,” said McGinley.
“There are so many talented players who have the potential to make the team and it will be very interesting for me to watch it evolve.
“I don’t think it would be fair to single anyone at the very start of the qualification process, but no matter what happens I know I will have 12 players who deserve to be on that team and who will give everything to keep European hands on that trophy next September.”
While the start of Ryder Cup qualification will understandably be at the centre of attention this week, the ISPS Handa Wales Open will stand alone in its own right, with a £1.8 million prize fund to be contested by a truly international field represented by 29 different nations.
Everyone in the field will be looking to dethrone defending champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, who took the title in fine style last year, winning by a single stroke from Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño on the 72nd hole.