Most of Europe’s players enjoyed their last taste of competitive action at the weekend before we all pack our bags and head for Hazeltine and the Ryder Cup in a few days’ time.
There is no input from Europe captain Darren Clarke in the players’ scheduling decisions; it is entirely up to them how they choose to prepare to face the United States next week.
As a player, I always preferred to head to the Ryder Cup having played recently. Seven of our 12 men took that option last week – a few others play this week – and on the whole I was pretty happy with how they performed at the Italian Open.
Danny Willett was the best of the bunch, finishing second behind Francesco Molinari and pushing the home favourite all the way on the final day in Monza.
Willett’s best finish since winning the Masters in April is a timely return to form. His birdie at 13 followed by an eagle at 14 were great and showed the sort of battling qualities needed in the Ryder Cup.
Chasing down an opponent in front of their home crowd is also very useful practice for what he and our other European debutants can expect when they face the Americans.
It was a fantastic win in the end for Molinari and a good sign for Italy, which will host the Ryder Cup for the first time in 2022. The only shame for Molinari is that the win was slightly too little too late to earn him qualification for this year’s contest.
Rory goes for FedEx Cup glory
Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters are the members of the European team set to play this week, with Rory still in with a shot of winning the FedEx Cup at the Tour Championship.
He is certainly in form, having won the Deutsche Bank Championship just a couple of weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he fares in Georgia.
Rory will have to win the tournament and hope that Dustin Johnson, who leads the standings going into the US season finale, doesn’t finish second outright in order to claim a first FedEx Cup.
It’s a tough task. Since his 2010 US Open collapse at Pebble Beach Johnson has won just about everything, and after breaking his Major duck this year the FedEx Cup would be the icing on the cake. He’d be a worthy winner.
Beef all smiles on Cheeseburger Day
Congratulations are due to Andrew Johnston, who secured his PGA Tour card by finishing fourth in Idaho on Sunday. Fittingly for a man known as Beef, it happened to be National Cheeseburger Day in the US.
Also well done to Paul Broadhurst, who followed up July’s Senior Open win at Carnoustie by becoming only the third man to win at that course and Pebble Beach on Sunday.