It was fantastic to see young Yorkshireman Matt Fitzpatrick secure his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team for the first time in style at the Czech Masters at the weekend.
The 21-year-old had been in line for a debut at Hazeltine next month ever since winning the British Masters last year and clinched one of the nine automatic qualifying spots by finishing fifth on Sunday.
Fitzpatrick showed how much it meant to him with a Twitter post about how he didn’t even have tour status when he watched the last Ryder Cup on television two years ago.
2 years ago I was sat watching the Ryder Cup at home with no status on tour... 2 years later and I'm in the team! Cannot wait!!!!!— Matt Fitzpatrick (@MattFitz94) August 21, 2016
Now he has cemented his place in Darren Clarke’s side, and it’s great to have someone involved who is so excited to be part of it.
Clarke's rookie knowledge
Fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan has also guaranteed qualification for the first time, along with BMW PGA Championship winner Chris Wood, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, who looked good again at the Wyndham Championship in the United States, and Masters winner Danny Willett. They may be rookies, but that is a strong group.
Fitzpatrick, Sullivan, Wood and Willett have also played under Clarke’s captaincy before, at the EurAsia Cup in January, when Europe emphatically beat Asia 18½–5½. He will have kept a close eye on them then, which is sure to feed into his thoughts about possible pairings.
Darren now has a week until he names the three wild card selections who will complete his team to face the USA.
He has been consulting with his vice-captains – Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter and myself – for a few weeks now. We chat every single day and that will go on right up until he names his final 12.
Standard of hopefuls is high
There are lots of good players who haven’t made the team yet and will be hoping to be a captain’s pick, such as Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Russell Knox, Shane Lowry, Thomas Pieters and Tyrrell Hatton.
Pieters narrowly missed the chance to nail down a place in the Czech Republic, while Donald and McDowell reminded everyone of their qualities by finishing second and tied for fifth respectively at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday.
USA captain Davis Love III has selection decisions of his own, and veteran Jim Furyk underlined his claims for a 10th Ryder Cup appearance with another great week, also at the Wyndham Championship.
US Open runner-up Furyk, 46, is already one of Love’s four assistants but could well go from vice-captain to player in one fell swoop.