The Ryder Cup selection race reaches a dramatic conclusion this weekend and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and Calum Hill are targeting the biggest win of their careers to gatecrash the European line-up.
Five players – Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – have already qualified for captain Padraig Harrington’s 12-man team to take on the United States from 24-26 September.
Four more will be book a place on Sunday at the BMW Championship at Wentworth.
Harrington will then complete his team with three wild cards as Europe prepare to defend the trophy in the showpiece – delayed a year by Covid-19 – at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
MacIntyre refreshed for last hurrah
MacIntyre is Scotland’s best hope of making the final 12. The 25-year-old will definitely qualify with victory at Wentworth, and second place is likely to also be enough.
Failing that, he will hope to get the nod from Harrington as a wild card, although it is a hotly-contested battle with Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia the leading contenders.
MacIntyre has proved his mettle on the big occasion by making the cut in all seven majors he has played. He has been on the fringe of automatic selection after sterling performances in this year’s Masters and The Open, finishing tied 12th on his “dream” Augusta debut in April before sharing eighth at Royal St George’s.
That was the last event he played on European soil and the world number 54 spent recent weeks in America attempting to win his PGA Tour card via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, but missed the cut in both events he played.
That ended a run of seven straight tournaments and MacIntyre now feels refreshed for the challenge at Wentworth after a much-needed week off back home in Oban.
“I know what I need to do,” he told BBC Scotland. “It didn’t matter what I did at the start of the season, I was always going to need a big Wentworth. I’m here, it’s golf, anything can happen.
“It wasn’t a direct goal for me [at the start of the season]. I was still needing to establish myself on the European Tour and major events. If you are not playing majors you are not playing Ryder Cups.
“But I feel like I’m doing the right things and played well in majors. It’s just now about going out there, playing good golf and if I can do that come Sunday afternoon I will get a phone call.”
‘Win or nothing’ for Hill
Hill, 26, knows he is highly unlikely to be a captain’s pick come Sunday night, so nothing other than a win will suffice.
The Kirkcaldy-born player has had seven top-10 finishes this season and earned his first European Tour victory at the Cazoo Classic last month.
That success lifted him into the world’s top 100 for the first time and he is keeping a calm head for the joust with some of Europe’s finest.
“I wouldn’t say it was on the forefront of my mind but it’s nice to have an opportunity,” he said. “Obviously it’s a consequence of playing well.
“It took a few attempts to get across the line this year but I think it all comes with experience and hopefully in the future there will be a few more trophies.
“If it happens then fantastic. It will be a great experience and I will love it but it’s not something I’m overly worried about. It is win or nothing.”
Pressure the key for captain Harrington
Ireland’s Harrington is happy to have two Scots in contention and says the pressure environment of Wentworth is ideal to gauge their readiness.
A Scottish player has featured in three of the last four Ryder Cups – most recently Russell Knox helping Europe to a 17½-10½ win at Le Golf National in Paris three years ago – and MacIntyre and Hill are both striving for a rookie appearance.
“It’s a big week,” said Harrington. “If you come down here and deliver under that pressure that’s exactly what you want in the Ryder Cup.
“The problem for Calum is he knows he is in if he wins this week So he is teeing up up under pressure, the same as he would be if he was leading a tournament on the Sunday.
“If he can deliver under that pressure he is more than welcome in my team.”
Like Hill, MacIntyre has one European Tour title to his name – the Cyprus Showdown in November 2020 – but it is his performances in the majors that have caught the eye.
He also claimed a memorable win over Dustin Johnson on his run to the last 16 of WGC Matchplay in March.
“Robert has been great all year, he has really been up there,” said Harrington.
“He is a tenacious player and that is the kind you would like in a Ryder Cup team so there is a lot going for Robert if he gets in the team or gets a pick.”