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.
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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