Who could force their way in to Ryder Cup contention ?


Who could force their way in to Ryder Cup contention ?
    In the next of our Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) data analytics series on the summer of sport, as the countdown continues to qualifying for the 2016 Ryder Cup, we analyse the options for captain's picks and the statistics for players who are hoping to force their way into the action at Hazeltine.
    
    The PGA Championship is the last major for those on the fringes of Ryder Cup qualification to impress their respective captains, and there is no doubt that performances on the big stage at Baltusrol will be a huge factor in the thoughts of Darren Clarke and Davis Love III.
    
    But in the grand scheme of things, both skippers and their backroom teams will not just be considering four days' worth of form, and they will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of a winning formula.
    
     
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    History has proved that all Ryder Cup captains have their own thought processes when it comes to their wild-card selections. Previous match play form, both in team and individual competitions, seasonal results, performances in majors and WGCs, and familiarity and reliability have all come into the equation over the years.
    
    Simple "gut instinct" has also played a part and, while many skippers have spent time analysing the merits and statistics of those in the frame, Paul McGinley took this to a new level ahead of the last Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014.
    
    And this did not just apply to his captain's picks - McGinley and his aides poured through page after page of numbers to assess every aspect of his line-up including prospective partnerships for the week, which players had performed well at Gleneagles or on similar layouts, who played well in chilly, blustery conditions … the list was seemingly endless.
    
    Clarke has hinted that he will adopt the same measures before announcing his three captain's picks following conclusion of the Made In Denmark­­­ on August 28, meaning candidates have just three tournaments - including the Olympics - to prove their credentials.
    
    Love will name three of his four captain's picks after the BMW Championship - the third of the four FedExCup Play-off events which concludes on September 11 - and he will make his final choice after the Tour Championship a fortnight later.
    
     
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    This is a direct reaction to the events of two years ago, when Tom Watson was obliged to name his wild-cards before Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk found some remarkable form on the PGA Tour and would have been firm favourites to be on the plane to Scotland had they produced the goods a couple of weeks earlier.
    
    Clarke and Love will, no doubt, already have their "ideal" wild-card picks firmly imprinted, and they can only hope that the players they have in mind can show enough to merit consideration over the next month. Previous experience counts for little if they struggle to make a cut in the build-up to one of the premier team events in world sport.
    
    Clarke has already picked four vice-captains
    Clarke has already picked four vice-captains
    The skippers have each played alongside some probable contenders over the course of the season, and it's interesting that Clarke has played twice with two of the rising stars on the European Tour - Thorbjorn Olesen and Thomas Pieters - while Love has checked out the form of established stars Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner at close range.
    
    But when we look at the crucial statistics, how do this quartet match up against their rivals for a place in the action at Hazeltine? And with a number of rookies expected to qualify for both teams, will Clarke and Love abandon their number-crunching and look for experience first and foremost?
    
    If Clarke opts for the latter approach, then the likes of Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and his good friend Lee Westwood, appear to be the obvious choices. Fortunately for the skipper, their statistics in the Ryder Cup and match play in general look favourable.
    
     
    Clarke has made no secret of his desire to see Westwood make his 10th Ryder Cup appearance. His performance in 2014 backed up McGinley's faith in him as he earned two vital wins alongside Jamie Donaldson, who celebrated a fine debut by securing the winning point on Sunday evening.
    
    Westwood has had an indifferent season, but he has fared well in the bigger events. His runner-up finish behind Danny Willett at The Masters in April would have warmed the heart of his long-time friend and Ryder Cup partner Clarke.
    
    McDowell and Kaymer have both proved their mettle in the heat of Ryder Cup competition before - G-Mac scoring the winning point to thwart a stellar American comeback at Celtic Manor while Kaymer memorably holed the six-foot putt that ensured Europe would retain the trophy in the most thrilling Ryder Cup of all - the Miracle at Medinah.

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