In all my years writing about the Ryder Cup I can’t recall anything to compare to this year, where practically the entire European team looks done and dusted and we are only in January.
Ahead of us we have got four major championships, three World Golf Championship events, any number of money-laden Rolex tournaments — in other words, millions upon millions of Ryder Cup qualifying points to contest.
We have also got a qualification system heavily weighted in favour of what happens after May. But I’d be amazed if 10 of the team haven’t identified themselves already, and perhaps even more than that.
Normally around this time you would probably come up with six certainties and guessing the other six adds up to a nice parlour game. But there’s no question a group of Europeans have broken away and are going to make it exceedingly difficult for anyone else to get a look in.
Accordingly, it’s way more than six already who are practically suited and booted for Paris.
Let’s start with the English. Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood can begin practising their French already. Alongside them Paul Casey wouldn’t have rejoined the European Tour if captain Thomas Bjorn didn’t fancy him strongly for a role shepherding the rookies.
And would you go into a Ryder Cup without Europe’s best putter, Matt Fitzpatrick? Then there is Ross Fisher, who has moved back into the world’s top 30 for the first time since 2010, when he made his sole Ryder Cup appearance at Celtic Manor.
Now to further afield. Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, the winner of the PGA Tour’s Career Builder Challenge on Sunday to move to world No 2 just 577 days after turning pro? Yep, that’s three more certainties.
Thomas Pieters and Henrik Stenson? Anybody envisage Europe starting out with those two not partnering McIlroy and Rose respectively? Bjorn hasn’t. That’s 11 players, therefore, who possess outstanding credentials.
Yes, it’s true one or two might get injured, or either Fisher or Fitzpatrick suffer a loss of form. Just below them, there is any number of players who could catch the captain’s eye, including the likes of Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry from Ireland, and Francesco Molinari, Bernd Wiesberger, Alex Noren and Alex Levy from mainland Europe.
But those 11 have either been playing so well for so long, or are trusted by the skipper — and remember, he will have four wildcards this time — there isn’t much wriggle room.
All will be revealed in due course, naturally. But add Rafa Cabrera-Bello from Spain and you have a dozen players already who will take some stopping from making up Europe’s team in September.