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Richie Ramsay: The two big decisions facing European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald

Luke Donald will pick his team to face the United States on Monday.

Ludvig Aberg. Image: Shutterstock.
Ludvig Aberg. Image: Shutterstock.

On Monday we will know all 24 players who will participate in next month’s Ryder Cup in Rome.

The United States have already named their 12 players – and I am surprised with the decision to include Justin Thomas.

The first four picks of Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa and Rickie Fowler were certainties.

Sam Burns or Keegan Bradley could have been another. I would have gone for Keegan because his forms seems to be a bit better and he has Ryder Cup experience.

But I believe Sam’s stats fit the course better so that may have been the decisive factor. He is a straighter driver of the ball than Keegan so I can understand why Zach Johnson has gone that way.

I’m struggling with the decision to pick Justin Thomas.

I feel players should be picked on their form rather than reputation. Keegan can feel hard done by as he put together a stronger year than Justin.

Justin has been pivotal for the United States in recent matches and I’m sure Zach will have asked the guys in the team who they want to play alongside.

They have maybe all said they want Justin in Rome so Zach clearly feels it is the best decision for the team.

But it is a little bit surprising that a player who didn’t finish in the top 70 of the Fed Ex Cup has made the Ryder Cup team but Europe has made similar calls with Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia in the past when they weren’t in form.

Two major calls for Donald

Zach Johnson has made some big calls and Luke Donald is going to have to do the same over the next couple of days.

It is possibly slightly easier for Luke because the American team has more strength in depth.

Zach could have picked Keegan or Lucas Glover and it would have been difficult to criticise those calls.

Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton have already qualified for the European team.

Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry are also part of the seven members who make up the core of the team.

They are all locks.

Bob MacIntyre is in the final qualifying spot on the European points list but that could change depending on what happens this weekend at the final qualifying event at the Omega European Masters.

If Bob secures that final spot then that leaves Luke with four players to pick and I expect Sepp Straka and Justin Rose are pretty much nailed on to take two of those four spots.

The final two spots would then come down to the Rasmus and Nicolai Hojgaard, Adrian Meronk, Yannick Paul, Victor Perez and Ludvig Aberg.

Could Nicolai Hojgaard be a surprise pick for Luke Donald? Image: Shutterstock. 151st Open Golf Championships, Hoylake, United Kingdom – 23 Jul 2023

If it stays the way it is and nobody does anything crazy I think he will take Nicolai Hojgaard.

That may be a bit of a left-field pick but he won the Italian Open at Marco Simeone in 2021 and he played well in the Hero Cup, contributing 3.5 points to help Continental Europe to victory.

He has a good temperament and I get the impression that the captain and vice-captains really like him as a player.

And I think Ludvig Aberg, the highly tipped 23-year-old from Sweden, could pip Meronk for the other spot in the team.

The Swede has made a great start this week and Luke could be persuaded to take a punt on him but he will be looking to get the blend right between experience and rookies.

With the way Ludvig drives the ball, he could be a player that goes on to dominate the men’s game in future years.

Is this Ryder Cup just too soon for him to be included? We will find out over the next few days.

There is still a lot of golf to be played and it may all change depending on who wins in Switzerland but it is shaping up to be a fantastic battle in Rome.