With just two events left until Ryder Cup Europe Captain Luke Donald names his Captain’s Picks on Monday 4th September, all eyes are on the players vying for the final qualifying spot on the European Points List.
This week’s D+D REAL Czech Masters on the DP World Tour marks the penultimate event in the qualification race for the European Points List, and with Donald and three of his five Vice Captains Nicolas Colsaerts, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari all in the field, it’s as much a chance for players to make a final impression as it is to push for the automatic spot.
Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have already been confirmed through the top two places on the European Points List, with Viktor Hovland sealing his spot in the team heading to Marco Simone Golf & Country Club next month after becoming the first to qualify on the World Points list.
As it stands, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood, both of whom are in action in the TOUR Championship on the PGA TOUR this week, occupy the two other available spots on the World Points List, while Robert MacIntyre holds in the third and final spot on the European Points list.
So, who else is in the frame?
MacIntyre is among a group of six players teeing up at the D+D REAL Czech Masters this week who could be in command of the third place spot in the European Points List with one week to go. In reality, there are still mathematically 20 players who could still earn their place with two good weeks, with 14 of those in the field at Albatross Golf Resort.
Currently on 1743.57 points, MacIntyre is 90.67 points ahead of nearest challenge Yannik Paul, who he displaced from the automatic qualifying spot following his runner-up finish at the Genesis Scottish Open. Adrian Meronk, Victor Perez, Rasmus Højgaard and Adrian Otaegui all join Paul with a slim chance of leapfrogging the Scot this week.
“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.”
Meanwhile Shane Lowry, who played on the 2020 Ryder Cup team and is currently 453.34 points behind, will be hoping to impress the Captain despite being mathematically unable to catch MacIntyre this week alone. He could get within 38.34 points of MacIntyre with a victory, however, which gives him a great chance if he had another good result in Switzerland.
Points available at D+D Real Czech Masters
*table shows points available for European Points List up to 20th position on the leaderboard
Below, we take a closer look at the five players who can displace MacIntyre in the last qualification spot on the European Points List ahead of the Omega European Masters.
Current points: 1652.9
Points behind MacIntyre: 90.67
Currently the closest challenger, Yannik Paul has been in the frame for automatic qualification for much of the season.
The German, who earned promotion from the European Challenge Tour at the end of the 2021 season, won his maiden DP World Tour title at the Mallorca Golf Open last year, and has followed up with more than a handful of top tens in 2023. After back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Thailand Classic and Hero Indian Open, Paul finished in a tie for sixth at the ISPS HANDA - Championship, and followed a tie for third at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed with a tie for eighth at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo.
He was overtaken by MacIntyre in July, and needs to finish fifth or better this week to have a chance of claiming back that place.
Current points: 1614.21
Points behind MacIntyre: 129.36
Bidding to make more Polish golfing history as the first player from his country to play in a Ryder Cup, Adrian Meronk has also been in a tussle throughout the season to earn his way into Team Europe.
Meronk, whose 2022 season included victories at the Horizon Irish Open and the ISPS HANDA Australian Open, began 2023 with a top ten in the first Rolex event of the year in Abu Dhabi. He then claimed his third DP World Tour victory in less than a year at Ryder Cup venue Marco Simone at the DS Automobiles Italian Open, and has since had top tens at the KLM Open and BMW International Open. He makes his first start this week since finishing in tie for 23rd at The 151st Open, and will need to finish solo third or better to have a chance of overtaking MacIntyre.
Current points: 1527.95
Points behind MacIntyre: 215.62
Perez is another player vying for position as he aims to rediscover the form that saw him go unbeaten for Continental Europe at the inaugural Hero Cup and win his first Rolex Series title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
The Frenchman also recorded a top ten at the Ryder Cup venue this year, which he followed up with a tie for 12th at the US PGA Championship. His best result since has been a tie for 18th at the BMW International Open, and he is back in action in the Czech Republic after withdrawing ill last week. In order to regain the position he held earlier this year, Perez will have to finish in second place or better.
Current points: 1516.86
Points behind MacIntyre: 226.71
With four top tens toward the end of the 2022 season that included a tie for seventh at the DP World Tour Championship, Højgaard was comfortably moving up the European Points List before a shoulder injury side-lined for a couple of months earlier in the year.
Despite another injury – this time an inflamed rib – Højgaard went on to claim his fourth DP World Tour victory in a six-hole play-off against Nacho Elvira to become the first Dane to win the Made in HimmerLand. After two missed cuts at the Genesis Scottish Open and The 151st Open, Højgaard now returns with a chance to earn his place in the Ryder Cup – but he needs to finish second or win to have his chance.
Current points: 1430.01
Points behind MacIntyre: 313.56
Fresh from a fourth place at last week’s ISPS HANDA World Invitational Presented by AVIV Clinics, Otaegui will be hoping to go better this week as he makes his case for a place in Team Europe.
Having won the Estrella Damn N.A. Andalucia Masters in 2022, Otaegui has come close twice in 2023, with runner-up finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and KLM Open. If he wants to move into the final place ahead of next week’s Omega European Masters, he will need a win this week.
Who else can make it?
A lot will need to fall into place, but there are still 10 other players in the field who could play their way into the final qualifying spot on the European Points List with two exceptional weeks on the DP World Tour.
As it stands, MacIntyre, Paul, Meronk, Perez, Hojgaard and Otaegui are also up against Shane Lowry, Jorge Campillo, Thorbjørn Olesen, Antoine Rozner, Pablo Larrazábal, Alexander Björk, Marcel Siem and Dale Whitnell. Six others - Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Jordan Smith, Joost Luiten and Romain Langasque would also have a chance, but are not in the field this week.