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Ryder Cup race enters final lap in Denmark

Thorbjørn Olesen, Matt Fitzpatrick and Eddie Pepperell are set for a Battle Royale under the watchful eye of European Captain Thomas Bjørn at the Made in Denmark – the last qualifying event in the race to represent Europe in next month’s Ryder Cup.

Those three players will fight it for the one final automatic qualifying place to guarantee a spot on Bjørn’s team to face the USA in Paris in just four weeks’ time.

Being played at the golf course where Bjørn honed his considerable talent as a child, the Silkeborg Ry Golf Club, the Made in Denmark could be the perfect place for Denmark’s current No 1 Olesen to become just the third Danish player in history (after Bjørn and Søren Hansen) to play in the Ryder Cup.

Olesen is certainly the man to catch and indeed will have his destiny firmly in his own hands this week. The 28 year old cannot be caught by either Fitzpatrick or Pepperell if he finishes in a tie for seventh place with one other player or better. If Olesen can do that in front of what is guaranteed to be a huge home crowd, he will be on the plane to Paris with Bjørn.

For Fitzpatrick and Pepperell, their mission is simple: win and hope.

To have any hope of automatic qualification, both players have to win the tournament for a start. Fitzpatrick then has to hope Olesen is not tied for seventh with one other player or better. Pepperell needs a victory and Olesen outside the top 12.

Once the eight automatic qualifiers for Bjørn’s team are confirmed at the conclusion of the Made in Denmark, the Captain will travel to London next where he will name his four Wild Cards on Wednesday afternoon.

Among the players being spoken off for a potential Wild Card is Belgian Thomas Pieters, also in the field this week. Pieters memorably won the 2016 Made in Denmark event to win one of Darren Clarke’s Wild Cards before going onto to become the most successful European Ryder Cup rookie in history, winning four points from five matches.

Player Quotes

Thomas Bjørn: “I know that everyone wants to ask me about potential picks today but I don’t want to talk about the individual players too much. These guys are under a lot of pressure already this week and I just want them to go and play their best and try to make the team.

“My focus at the moment is on three days at the end of September and nothing else really matters. I took this role to be there for 12 players and my focus is solely on that job. I am really enjoying that.

“I have been involved in a lot of decisions that are made in the Ryder Cup and between myself, Lee, Robert, Padraig and Graeme we will use all of our experience to try and arrive at the best decisions for the team. That will be the case then we are making picks next week and during the week itself.

“I have no expectations for my own golf this week. If you see my name in the draw on Saturday then you will know it’s been a good week! I just have so much on at the moment that I haven’t been able to spend any time practicing recently and if you don’t do that then it eventually starts to show in your game. But I am delighted to be here, delighted to be playing and I will go out there on Thursday and do everything I can to play my best. I do feel I am playing ok, but scoring becomes extremely difficult when you are not into your own game. I spend more time looking at other players just now, but that is the position I am in and it is a position that I love being in.”

Thorbjørn Olesen: “Obviously it’s nice that they haven’t overtaken me but last week was more like preparing me for this week, trying to get ready and trying to make a good result this week, that’s all I’ve been thinking about. If you just look who has been Captain before for Ryder Cup and then you have Thomas this time, I think he fully deserves it with what he’s done for golf: how many tournaments he’s won and Ryder Cups he’s played. He’s a big name not just in Denmark but everywhere in the world. For us it’s very special to see a Danish guy doing that job and I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.”

Matt Fitzpatrick: “I know what I need to do. I’ve seen the permutations to get automatic qualification, this week is a big week as is next week. I know Thomas is announcing his picks next Wednesday, if I can put it in a good performance here and then show the signs that I’m playing well then you never know. I think everyone has got in their own mind who is in Thomas’ mind and who deserves a pick and who is on the fringes. A good week this week and hopefully I can push myself into the final places. This has been my main goal, to make this Team, I’ve become good friends with Thomas and to play for his Team in France would be amazing.”

Eddie Pepperell: “I feel pretty good. Last week was the best the wrist has been in a long time so I’m pretty optimistic. I’ve been doing a couple of things differently to try and help it and it seems to be working so far. I sorted my technique out a lot last year and I felt like I took more control of my game with my coach at the time. I’ve moved house, put a putting green in the house and I’ve got a dog. When you add up all those little things, it can help on and off the course.

“It’s mad to think that two years ago at this event I was really struggling and this was in the middle of a run of events where I ended up losing my card. Now, two years on, here I am with a chance to qualify for the Ryder Cup. It’s a crazy game. There’s a lot on the line this week. It’s good for us and it’s good for the event that there’s something on line. Playing with Thomas as well for the first two days should be fun and lots to look forward to here this week.”

Thomas Pieters: “Everybody knows what I have to do, I know it very well as well. I’ve just got to focus on Thursday and take every day as it comes. Play well, there’s not much else you can do, right? Thorbjørn has to be on the Team, he’s on it right now. There is so many good guys playing good golf right now so it’s going to be really tough for Thomas.”

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In The Bunker With Mick The Grip – November 2017

AS THE 2018 RYDER CUP will be held for the first time in France, Ryder Cup Captains Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn visited Paris to initiate the countdown, and then popped up the Eiffel Tower to recreate the memorable occasion in 1976 when Arnold Palmer hit a golf ball off the tower into the gardens below.  

The captains were invited to dinner at Versailles and breakfast at the President’s palacial pad, although as M. Macron’s knowledge of golf is probably on a par (excuse the pun) with his English the conversation over the croissants must have been a bit one-sided.

ON THE PGA TOUR schedule next year the Asia swing in October will have as many tournaments as the Florida swing in March.  The CJ Cup, won last week in South Korea by Justin Thomas, offers $9.25 million in prize money. Only the four majors, The Players and the World Golf Championship have higher purses. 

Not all Tour pros are thrilled at the prospect, what with jet lag, no decent cheeseburgers, and the possibility of a North Korean missile landing on the green.   Kevin Kisner said:  “It’s great that there’s a tournament with a  $9.25 million purse in South Korea, but we’re not all keen to get on a plane and fly over there.”

Unfortunately the American economy isn’t up to sponsoring limitless multi-million dollar tournaments; the PGA Tour is simply recognizing where the growth is.  They can’t afford to ignore it.

REMEMBERING A HERO.  In 1931,  21 yr. old Douglas Bader lost both legs following a crash while attempting a low level flying manoeuvre over Reading airfield.   Refusing to permit his injuries to rule his life, he fought in the Battle of Britain, shooting down over 20 German aircraft, and was eventually captured and imprisoned in Colditz.  

After the war he threw himself into golf to keep active, quickly getting down to single figures, after a shaky start when “Every time I swung a club I fell over.”  He became a fixture on the golf circuit, frequently appearing in the pro-celebrity series on television.   Outspoken and with little patience with whingers, Sir Douglas was only upstaged once, according to Peter Alliss, and that was by Henry Cotton after a pouring wet day at the Berkshire, when everyone came in off the course absolutely sodden.  

Bader said: “Moan moan moan, I don’’t know what you’re complaining about Cotton,” to which Cotton replied: “It’s all right for you Douglas, your feet don’t get wet.”

Group Captain Bader, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar,  founded the Bader Cup, which was held annually, and raised over £20,000 a year for the disabled.  The last Bader Cup was held at the Berkshire in 2013, players included Sir Bruce Forsyth. 

Now the good work is carried on by the English Disability Open, held this August at The Warwickshire Golf Club, the British Disabled Open, held at Ufford Park, Suffolk, in September, and the On Course Foundation which supports disabled ex servicemen and helps them obtain employment in the golfing industry. 

Sir Douglas Bader died, aged 72, in1982, but his legacy lives on.

A TRIUMPHANT SERGIO GARCIA won the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, after battling the elements.  Coming in after Day 2 he groaned:  “I found it really tough out there this afternoon. It was a little bit breezy, the fairways were starting to firm up, and the rain had made the greens a tiny bit bumpy.”   Poor soul, it must have been hell.

WILL LAS COLINAS win Spain’s Best Golf Course award for the 3rd year running?  La Manga Club and Resort will play host from 23-26th November to the most prestigious awards programme in the golf tourism industry:  ‘The World Golf Awards.’  

The organisers say that “Luminaries” will be ferried by limo from the airport to a 3-day jolly packed with exclusive golf activities, followed by a red-carpet Gala Ceremony.   According to the dictionary, ‘Luminaries’ are “heavenly bodies giving off light” so  shouldn’t they arrive in their own Fiery Chariots?

Until next time: Happy Golfing.

Contact Mick for your club regripping and repairs, 638 859 475.

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