A timely return to form and a team flush with rookies are both boons to Graeme McDowell’s chances of capping a rather tumultuous season with an unexpected Ryder Cup appearance at Hazeltine National.
With five of the nine already assured spots on Europe’s 12-man team donning the famous blue for the very first time, captain Darren Clarke may well opt for three experienced men as his wildcard picks, to help plot the retention of the trophy in the lion’s den.
Taking on an extremely strong American team on home soil is not for the faint hearted and this gives rise to hardened Ryder Cup players Martyn Kaymer and Lee Westwood being installed as 1/50 and 1/20 chances to snaffle up places respectively.
For those mathematicians out there, they will have deduced that only one berth (barring a genuine shock) remains. Clarke, who announced his final team on August the 30th has been presented a dilemma by Scotsman Russell Knox.
Because he bases himself in the United States and hadn’t yet registered his European Tour membership ahead of his WGC-HSBC Champions victory last November, he didn’t gain the Ryder Cup points associated with that event.
Since then, Knox has been a consistent performer on both Tours and a July win at the Travelers Championship looked to have put one foot in the team for Hazeltine. Using this season’s form as a barometer, and taking into account that he would already be there automatically given his WGC win, there’s a solid case for the 8/13-shots inclusion.
The massive black mark, is his complete lack of team golf and very little in the way of matchplay form generally.
Going off his far more erratic season, many had written McDowell’s chances off. However, circumstances may well be converging to make him the best bet left at 15/8 to get his countryman’s nod.
Four sub-70 rounds, including a 64 in the third, earned the Northern Irishman a tie for fifth at the Wyndham Championship on his last start, which is timely indeed.
Both men now line up for The Barclays across the pond for something of an unofficial shootout. If the veteran of four Ryder Cups, including the Miracle at Medinah outshines Knox, who returns from a hiatus, this bet will no longer be odds-against.
The 7/1 bar from next pick Luke Donald shows this is pretty much a two-horse race for one precious place on Europe’s roster.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.