Tuesday 20 March 2018

Man for big occasion Blixt nailed on for Ryder spot – McGinley

Paul McGinley has forgiven Jonas Blixt for forgetting his name
Paul McGinley has forgiven Jonas Blixt for forgetting his name
Jonas Blixt of Sweden tees off on the 12th hole

James Corrigan

Paul McGinley has forgiven Jonas Blixt for forgetting his name after finishing as runner-up in Sunday's Masters – not to mention not knowing the qualification rules for the Ryder Cup – and suggested the Swede could be "nailed on" for a place at Gleneagles in September.

Despite his heroics in Georgia – where he finished three shots behind winner Bubba Watson in a tie with Jordan Spieth – Blixt is still some way short of the automatic berths on the points list, lying seven places outside the cut-off point in 16th.

However, as Blixt has finished fourth and now second in two of the three Majors he has played, McGinley sees a character he would like in his team.

"Jonas put himself in the driving seat to possibly make the team," the Europe captain said. "He was quite far back on points before the Masters; he's performed well again for the second consecutive Major and it's clear that he's a man for the big occasion. It looks as if Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson are nailed-on as rookies – and maybe Blixt as well.

"His short game was special. He was third or fourth in putting for the week but his chipping was superb too. This guy has got a lot of heart and a lot of game; he had a lot of focus coming down those last holes.

"He certainly wasn't daunted and it's important, if he's going to be a Ryder Cup player, that he has that psyche and it's quite clear he has."

What is not clear is the extent of Blixt's ambition regarding the Ryder Cup, despite him declaring "it would be a lifelong dream come true".

Even allowing for the distraction caused by the intense heat of battle, Blixt's confusion about the regulations did not scream of a player obsessed with qualifying.

After being reminded of the captain's name when asked about his chances for Gleneagles, he said: "I'm probably the wrong person to answer that – that's up to Paul McGinley to make the decision."

Indeed, McGinley could well choose Blixt as one of his three wild cards, but the Scandinavian will have ample opportunity to get there on merit. With the likes of Lee Westwood also out of the qualifying positions at the moment, he may have to.

Blixt attended Florida State University and still lives in Jacksonville, but is a member of the European Tour and, therefore, eligible for the Ryder Cup in September – assuming he plays the required 13 European Tour events.

As McGinley noted: "It's up to him as to how he plays in the summer as to whether he makes it or not. Certainly he's good enough for the Ryder Cup team."

McGinley is already planning how to deal with the startling talent of 20-year-old superstar Spieth.

"The Americans' points system offers double points for the Majors this year so that's pretty much assured Jordan of his place on their team and so he should be – he's fantastic," he said. "Who knows, Spieth versus Blixt at Gleneagles could well happen." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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