Luke Donald ‘will hope Robert MacIntyre qualifies’ for Ryder Cup to avoid pick dilemma


Robert MacIntyre, Yannik Paul, Adrian Meronk, Victor Perez, Rasmus Hojgaard and Adrian Otaegui are all aiming to seal a place on Team Europe this weekend – but Luke Donald could well have a preferred candidate; Ryder Cup in Rome from September 29, live on Sky Sports

        Luke Donald 'will hope Robert MacIntyre qualifies' for Ryder Cup to avoid pick dilemma

Robert MacIntyre is favourite to secure a place on Team Europe in the final DP World Tour qualification event this week

Robert MacIntyre is in pole position to grab the final automatic qualifying position for the Ryder Cup and Team Europe captain Luke Donald will probably be quietly hoping he gets it.

MacIntyre will no doubt be a certainty for a pick in Luke Donald’s team but sealing a qualifying place would take away a major headache for the skipper, ahead of the Ryder Cup live on Sky Sports from September 29.

The European team already has Rory McIlroy, John Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland confirmed as they look to win back the Ryder Cup that they lost in emphatic fashion to Team USA at Whistling Straits two years ago.

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The Scotsman is favourite to grab the final automatic spot ahead of Germany’s Yannik Paul, Poland’s Adrian Meronk, France’s Victor Perez, Denmark’s Rasmus Hojgaard and Spaniard Adrian Otaegui as DP World Tour players have the final chance to book a spot on the team on merit at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

Should Paul, who is very much in contention for the spot, manage to secure a place on Team Europe then it would mean Donald would have to go into battle at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club with a player on the team who has never been ranked higher than 91 in the world – and MacIntyre is the most fancied of the players in contention for the final spot.

On the Sky Sports Golf Podcast, the team broke down the selection dilemmas potentially heading Donald’s way ahead of next month’s showpiece.

Irish professional Gary Murphy and top journalist Michael McEwan joined Josh Antmann to discuss the ever-changing scenarios with the European Ryder Cup team and agreed that MacIntyre is a shoe-in – it’s just a question of whether Donald has to spend a captain’s pick on him.

“I think that Luke Donald will want him to keep that last spot, absolutely,” said McEwan. “No disrespect whatsoever to Yannik Paul, but him making the Ryder Cup team I think would be a pretty huge surprise. He is currently 109th on the world rankings.

“He’s only played in three majors to date, two of them this year. He’s missed two cuts in majors – I don’t think there’s a huge amount of pedigree.

“I’m struggling to see Luke Donald getting that excited about Yannik Paul muscling his way into that last spot.

“I think Bob will just about hang on, and bear in mind Bob played with Luke Donald, the first two rounds in Prague last week. That was an audition and Bob passed it with flying colours, playing the way he did the first couple of days.

“I think Bob’s safe. If he makes the team on merit matter, great, if he doesn’t, I’m absolutely certain he’s getting the pick.”

        Luke Donald 'will hope Robert MacIntyre qualifies' for Ryder Cup to avoid pick dilemma

Robert MacIntyre hit one of the shots of the tournament as he birdied the 18th on his final round to set the clubhouse lead at the Scottish Open

Murphy believes for MacIntyre’s own confidence, it’s important that the Scotsman manages to seal an automatic place on his own merit.

“I think McIntyre’s certainly passed the test,” said the Irishman, a former European Tour pro. “He’ll be keen to get in there automatically. There’s something nice about that, too. Rather than, you know, waiting around for it.

“A pick is a pick, you’re one of the 12 and to get in automatically, there’s a huge sense of achievement in that as well. There are only three spots. There’s only one spot really because John Rahm and Rory are going to be the first two. Even at the start of this series, you’re only really playing for one spot as a European based in the States.”

Should McIntyre qualify alongside the four players who have already sealed their spots, he will likely be joined by Tommy Fleetwood and Ryder Cup veterans Justin Rose and Shane Lowry. That will leave four picks for the captain, and that’s when Donald’s eyes may turn to the up-and-comers.

‘Aberg is a future top 10 player’

        Luke Donald 'will hope Robert MacIntyre qualifies' for Ryder Cup to avoid pick dilemma

Ludvig Aberg, of Sweden, hits from the first tee during the final round of the 2023 Travelers Championship (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

One of the most exciting talents looking towards the future for the European team is Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg, who has showcased star potential on the PGA Tour with a sprinkling of top 10 finishes in just a few months playing alongside the best players in the world.

Ryder Cup veteran Shane Lowry’s former caddy, Brian ‘Bo’ Martin, who has been on the bag for Hatton for part of this year, rates the 23-year-old as a future top 10 player, according to Murphy.

“I think like for Donald to rationalise [picking Aberg] he’s going to go, ‘If Aberg had two years at it, he’s probably going to be in the team’. He’s a Jon Rahm-style No 1 turning pro, and he’s hit the ground running.

“‘Bo’ Martin was out with him when he was caddying for Tyrell Hatton on his first start at the Canadian Open and he thinks he’s a top 10 player in the world next couple of years, so that’s the kind of level he’s at. Luke Donald is very keen on him, I think. So I think, if he has going to include him, he’s going to go, ‘this is his performance for the four months he’s had as a professional and multiply that by two years’, and that would probably justify picking him.”

        Luke Donald 'will hope Robert MacIntyre qualifies' for Ryder Cup to avoid pick dilemma

Henni Koyack and Zane Scotland use the Audi Performance Zone to explain how Ludvig Aberg uses the ground in his swing

McEwan also believes that the young Swede is a must-pick for Donald, and thinks competing against some of his potential Ryder Cup opponents could give him some insight that some of his Team Europe colleagues might not have.

“He’s played against a ton of the best players, with a ton of the best players in the world and I think the compelling thing for me really is that he’s been playing a lot of PGA Tour golf,” said McEwan. “So the Americans that he’s going to be going up against aren’t an unknown quantity to him in the same way as they are for a number of the guys trying to get the same spot that he’s going for.

“Aberg, it might seem a little bit daft, it might be a bit out there, but this boy is utter class. I have zero, zero fears about putting him straight into a Ryder Cup team. Bear in mind, he’s been crawled for about the same amount of time as Rose Zhang, and no one has any issue with her going in the Solheim Cup team. Granted, she’s won, and he hasn’t. But the way I see it, if you’re good enough, you’re absolutely ready.”

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        Luke Donald 'will hope Robert MacIntyre qualifies' for Ryder Cup to avoid pick dilemma

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