Sunday 15 December 2019

Jonas Blixt 'nailed on' for Ryder Cup - Paul McGinley

James Corrigan

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

Despite his heroics in Georgia – where he finished three shots behind the 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,” McGinley added. “I think he was third or fourth in putting for the week but his chipping was superb too.

“But it wasn’t just a short-game exhibition. 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 joined the European Tour last year and is fully eligible, as McGinley noted. “It’s up to him as to how he plays in the summer as to whether he makes it or not,” said McGinley, who was at Augusta in an analyst role for Sky Sports. “Certainly he’s good enough for the Ryder Cup team.”

McGinley was also buoyed by Westwood’s performance in finishing as the top-placed Briton in seventh place. “Lee’s game is coming back and we all know how good he can be and the influence he has in the team room,” McGinley said.

Westwood flew out to Kuala Lumpur on Monday disappointed with the three dropped shots in his first four holes on Sunday which essentially ensured his long quest for a major continues.

But this was the 40-year-old’s first top 10 of the year and, as he said, “my ball-striking was better than it’s been for a long time”.

However, if the Masters was judged in Ryder Cup terms then it was plainly Tom Watson’s week even though it was not as calamitous for Europe as some might suggest with Miguel Ángel Jiménez, in fourth, one of six European players to finish in the top 13, along with Blixt, Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Bernhard Langer and Thomas Bjorn.

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

“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.”

McGinley’s opposite number texted the champion immediately after his second Masters win in three years saying “see you on the plane to Gleneagles”.

And in his victory press conference Watson revealed the Ryder Cup is now his priority for the rest of the season.

“I figure I’ve made the team and it’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’m sorry to say but I haven’t won a Ryder Cup yet – and I’d like to. That’s the next big tournament I’d like to win.” Europe have been warned.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport