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2014 Ryder Cup: Rob Lee picks three outsiders for European places

Rob Lee - Rob Lee Posted 21st January 2014 view comments

European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley will be delighted that some of his gun players are in form.

Henrik Stenson was simply sensational through the middle and backend of 2013, Ian Poulter's year ended in superb fashion and Rory McIlroy got a long-awaited win in Australia and then finished just a stroke shy of Pablo Larrazabal in Abu Dhabi.

Stenson should be in Team Europe at Gleneagles - but who might join him?

Stenson should be in Team Europe at Gleneagles - but who might join him?

You would imagine that the three aforementioned players will be vital cogs in McGinley's squad to tackle Team America at Gleneagles in September, but there are plenty of other established and not-so-established guys who will be hoping to get into the side.

Thomas Bjorn is enjoying a resurgence, Jamie Donaldson has flourished over the last few years and young Italian Matteo Manasserro - who, despite being just 20, has won four times on the European Tour - is another force to be reckoned with.

However, I reckon this three, all of whom have never played in a Ryder Cup before, have a decent shout of teeing it off in Scotland...

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano

Nationality: Spanish

Age: 33

World ranking: 36

European Tour titles: 7

Most recent victory: 2013 BMW Masters (beat Francesco Molinari and Thongchai Jaidee by one stroke)

ROB SAYS: This very honest Spaniard certainly has the quality to make Paul McGinley's team but I wonder how playing on both the European and PGA Tours will affect him this season. It could count against him but there are five world spots available in addition to the four European ones, and he must believe he can nab one of those. Gonzalo is one of the brightest and humblest players around and those qualities in a team room are vital; you need wacky characters at a Ryder Cup but you also need people to tell it how it is in a believable way and not just rant and rave. Fernandez-Castano falls into the second category and will be a real asset for Paul McGinley if he makes the team and that goes for out on the course as well. The weakest part of Gonzalo's game is his putting but he has found a way to get by - much like Sergio Garcia, who has the same affliction - and he is much-improved in that area anyway. His game, though, is based on ball-striking and as he is so wonderful in that department, plenty of people would want to partner him.

Joost Luiten

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 28

World ranking: 43

European Tour titles: 3

Most recent victory: 2013 KLM Open (beat Miguel Angel Jimenez in a play-off)

ROB SAYS: I think Joost has a wonderful chance of making it to Scotland, too. He is a perennial birdie maker, is going along in a very nice fashion and, as he approaches the prime golfing age of 30, he is starting to feel comfortable in big tournaments with big names around him. He will scoot up all the important rankings and tables because his attacking style of play always puts him in contention to win titles - he has collected victories in Malaysia and Austria in addition to the KLM Open triumph in his homeland - and I'm certain he will win more soon. Joost is not aggressive for the sake of it and has a distinct plan for how he wants to go about things which includes taking on pins with cracking iron shots. He does not fear anything and that up-and-at-'em mentality boosts people at the Ryder Cup and can have a major effect, as Ian Poulter has shown in tournaments gone by. Luiten would take the game to the Americans and is someone you would much rather have in your side than against you. Joost could be a real menace this autumn.

Tommy Fleetwood

Nationality: English

Age: 23

World ranking: 87

European Tour titles: 1

Most recent victory: 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship (beat Stephen Gallacher and Ricardo Gonzalez in a play-off)

ROB SAYS: I think Tommy's best chance of making the Ryder Cup is to finish in one of the automatic spots because wildcard picks tend to go to more experienced players who captains know won't freeze in the headlights, as we saw in 2010 when Colin Montgomerie picked Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald and two years ago when Jose Maria Olazabal opted for Poulter. However, Edoardo Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts have been selections as rookies recently and having won the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles, Tommy must feel he has a lot to offer at that venue should he finish just outside the qualification spots. I say should because he has the game to get in by right. He is a slightly-built lad and not an outhouse door but he can create a lot of speed and hit the ball long distances, while he is very adept at picking up birdies, too. The key is consistency, which Fleetwood has been for much of his fleeting professional career to date, with a third-placed finish at the Volvo Golf Champions and a top-20 in Abu Dhabi already this year showing that.

ROB'S SKY BET TIPS

Henrik Stenson missed the cut in Abu Dhabi which means he is going to win the Qatar Masters, but I'd also have a little punt on Branden Grace, who narrowly lost out to Louis Oosthuizen at the Volvo Golf Champions and proved he can travel by winning in China a couple of years back.

Tiger Woods, meanwhile, has won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines seven times so I'm not going to back against him on this occasion. However, Ian Poulter looks good value at 45/1 with Sky Bet as he finished 2013 in great style, with top-two finishes in China and Dubai and a fifth place in Turkey.

Watch the Qatar Masters from 6.30am, Thursday, Sky Sports 4 and the Farmers Insurance Open from 8pm, Thursday, Sky Sports 4.

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