It’s not just the Americans who are holding their breaths in hopes of getting a captain’s pick for next month’s Ryder Cup. The deadline to make the European team on points is this Sunday, August 31st, which technically means the PGA Tour’s Deutsche Bank Championship ending on Monday doesn’t count towards the standings.
Ryder Cup juggernaut Ian Poulter is on the outside looking in and needs Captain Paul McGinley to give him the official nod (which, lets be real, it’s a lock). Poulter helped his case on Friday, firing a four-under 67 to put him in a tie for sixth after the first round.
The Englishman has had a frustrating season, to say the least, after battling injuries that have prevented him from practicing as much as he’d like. So, you could say he was in good spirits following his solid opening round.
“I’m pleased,” said Poulter. “It’s been an interesting nine months, shall we say, eight months. But the body is feeling a lot stronger. I’m able to get more practice in. I’m doing the right things in the gym. And I’m starting to feel a little stronger than what I was for the first eight months of the year. It’s been frustrating, and I just need to continue to work out on the right things and everything will turn around nicely.”
Unlike Keegan Bradley, who openly admitted to the Ryder Cup being at the forefront of his thoughts, Poulter was perhaps a tad defensive when the topic came up, saying he’s just focused on the current task at hand.
“I’m not thinking anything else right now, apart from playing golf this week,” he said. “I’ve got to motivate myself to make sure I play well this week, to play next week, to play the week after. And I’m not thinking about Ryder Cup. It’s in a few weeks’ time. Obviously it’s on everyone’s radar, because everyone wants to play in it. And I want to play in it as well. So I’ll have to wait and see.”
With his injury struggles, Poulter has had an average year at best. His top finish of the 2013-14 season was all the way back in October when he placed second at the WGC-HSBC Championship in China. And besides his T20 finish at the Masters and T17 at the U.S. Open, he’s missed a few cuts and finished in the middle of the pack.
However, I don’t see any scenario where European Captain Paul McGinley does *not* select Poulter as one of his three wildcard picks.
Meanwhile, Luke Donald, who missed the cut last week at The Barclays, is also vying for a spot on the team. Like several others, he has more than one task at hand this week.
“I’ve obviously got two aims this week — one of them is to try and progress to next week with a solid week, and the other is to have a solid tournament for myself and hopefully show Captain McGinley that I’m in form,” he said. “I haven’t played very well lately, but still feel like I could be a valuable part of that team and hopefully he’ll see it that way, as well.”
Donald admitted to wanting to make the team on merit so badly that he probably pressed too hard at Ridgewood.
“Hopefully I’ll do a better job this week to stay in the present,” he said. “Last week I didn’t do a good job and I probably pressed too hard and got in my own way too much. I think a little part of that pressure wears off because I can’t qualify automatically now, so I shot myself in the foot there, unfortunately. Now it’s just trying to advance this week and obviously try to get in four solid rounds.”
Donald opened with a solid two-under 69, which puts him at T17 through the first round. Not a bad start to back his case.
Experience also counts. Donald has been a part of four victorious Ryder Cups teams and has secured 10.5 points out of a possible 15 total. Not too shabby.
“I keep asking myself one question over, which Paul should probably ask — ‘Who would you rather have on Sunday trying to win a point in singles?’
“Obviously, I have a lot of experience and I hope that’s going to count for a lot. It’s also wise to pick on form and my form hasn’t been the best. Hopefully i’m still the inside looking out. If I can just throw in a solid tournament this week, hopefully it’ll comfort McGinley in making a choice.”
It almost sounds as if McGinley reassured Donald that he was nearly a lock. The two spoke last week after Donald missed the cut at The Barclays.
“(McGinley) just wanted to know how my game was, tell me to have some fun this week, don’t worry about it so much. I’m up at the top of the list of choices he’s going to make. He didn’t say I’m in or not in.
“But he just said, ‘Try not to think about it too much and play like you know you can play and your experience counts for a lot and I’ve been thinking about that a lot.'”
Sounds like Luke’s a lock to me — unless Stephen Gallacher goes out and wins the Italian Open, then it might get a little tricky if he bumps out Graeme McDowell for an automatic berth. And of course, Poulter likely doesn’t have anything to worry about, but a strong week for both of them would probably save Captain McGinley some sleep. He’ll announce his selections at 12:30 BST on Tuesday.