Edoardo Molinari makes claim for wildcard Ryder Cup spot
Edoardo Molinari believes his form and desire make him more deserving of a wildcard than the four European heavyweights who have chosen to play in America this week rather than the Ryder Cup's final qualifying event here.
However, the Italian also believes that Colin Montgomerie will only name him as one of his three captain's picks on Sunday evening if he wins the Johnnie Walker Championship. "He would have to then," said Molinari yesterday.
Well, the pressure would certainly be enormous, not least because not so very long ago Montgomerie declared that he "expected" every wildcard contender to tee it up in tomorrow's first round here. Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Justin Rose will instead be playing in the first event of the $70m FedEx play-off series.
Their decision has inevitably dominated the talk on the range. When asked to sum up the general feeling on the European Tour about the stay-away quartet Peter Hanson was commendably frank. "If you really want to make the team and you're close to qualifying then you should be playing here," said the Swede who made all but sure of his debut with Sunday's victory in the Czech Open. "I think the people we're talking about are Casey and Harrington."
That pair would very likely have only required a top-five placing to secure one of the nine automatic spots, while Donald would have needed the win. Rose, like Molinari, would have only been in Auchterarder to catch the eye of his captain, although the latter can get within a few points of the last qualifying berth. If Molinari does, then Montgomerie will surely find it impossible to overlook him.
As it stands Molinari thinks the captain is "90 per cent certain" to go with the established stars, despite any perceived disloyalty/arrogance. "Colin has said he wants people to play here this week – but I don't think he wants to do any harm to the team," said the 29-year-old. "He's going to pick the best players, even if they don't play here."
According to the rankings, Molinari is being unduly modest. At 21st in the world he is ahead of Rose in the rankings and, in contrast to Casey and Harrington, is a winner this season. Furthermore the title he lifted at the Scottish Open last month is far more prestigious than Donald's sole victory in Madrid. "Purely on results, I think I do deserve it more," he said. "But experience counts a lot in the Ryder Cup. On my side, I would be playing with my brother Francesco and that would be a very good pairing. Colin knows it. We won the World Cup together last year and in foursomes, especially, we would be tough to beat."
Yet the bookies agree with Molinari: Montgomerie will go for the reputation over the desire. "To be honest, the guys who have turned up here must want it more," said the 7-1 fifth favourite. "If the Ryder Cup is a goal of your season, then you come to the final qualifying event. Hopefully I'll play well enough this week to force Colin to pick me."