With just over 10 months to go before the 2018 Ryder Cup gets under way in Paris, there is already plenty of discussion building around the make up of the two teams, especially now that the selection criteria for both squads has been finalised and the points tables are up and running.
And with the 2018 campaigns already underway on the European Tour and the PGA Tour, the clock is already counting down to September 28, when the two 12-man teams face off at Le Golf National in sports’ most popular transatlantic sporting clash.
European captain Thomas Bjorn will be working doubly hard to ensure his team wrestles the trophy back off the Americans following the heavy defeat at Hazeltine, and it looks like he’ll have plenty of firepower with which to do it following the changes to the team selection process.
The 46 year old Dane, who was a vice-captain at Hazeltine, saw at first hand the disadvantages Darren Clarke faced by the old system, so it was no wonder that as soon as he was appointed captain last December, he immediately announced a review into the way the side would be chosen.
Under the previous system, Clarke had to do without the in-form Alex Noren and Paul Casey at Hazeltine, while Danny Willett, surprise Masters champion earlier in the year, had been playing terribly for the rest of the summer, but still had enough points in the bag to be an automatic pick. Six rookies didn’t help the European cause either, especially for an away leg.
To avoid a repetition of that situation, the European system has been altered so that tournaments nearer the time of the Ryder Cup will have their points weighted more heavily. This means that in-form players, like Noren, should no longer fall through the cracks, while those whose form has long since tailed off, may struggle to keep their places.
Jon Rahm and Paul Casey’s decision to join the European Tour will also be one less headache for the skipper. Already selected as a wildcard for January’s EurAsia Cup, Casey, who is currently 14th in the world rankings, looks a shoe-in for selection for Paris, automatic or otherwise, while the same applies to Rahm following a season that has seem him win three times and move to number four in the world rankings in only his first full year as a professional.
Bjorn is also getting four wildcards instead of the previous three, giving him even more leeway to make sure he can field his strongest line-up. The American team captain Jim Furyk will also have four wildcards at his disposal, making it a level playing field, so more focus than ever will fall on the two captains and the choices they make when the time comes.
At the moment, the betting for the 2018 Ryder Cup is finding it hard to split the two teams, although many of the top odds-making firms on www.bestbettingsites.uk/golf have USA as the slight favourites at 10/11 as the cup holders. USA might be the holders, and currently boasts the top three players in the world in Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, but they haven’t won outside of the States since 1993, so Furyk faces a huge task ahead of him, regardless of the immense firepower he has at his disposal.
With European players having had several seasons playing the French Open at the Le Golf National – which was won by newly-crowned European No.1 Tommy Fleetwood this year – and with Rory McIIroy, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson likely to be in the line up alongside the likes of Rahm and Casey, Europe’s hand is looking stronger by the minute, and the stage looks set for another thrilling match play encounter. The next 10 months can’t fly by fast enough….