Europe captain Luke Donald has been warned that he would be threatening the integrity of the qualifying system if he picks Ludvig Aberg for the Ryder Cup later this month.
Aberg shot a second-round 67 on Friday to move to nine-under and within three of the halfway pace at the last qualifying event. The 23-year-old has only played eight tournaments as a pro since joining the paid ranks in June and the Omega European Masters is only his third on the DP World Tour.
However, Donald has been so impressed by the former world amateur No 1 that the bookies have the young Swede as an odds-on chance to be named next as one of the six wildcards.
Aberg is outside the top 50 in the Ryder Cup standings and is ranked 200th in the world and Eddie Pepperell, the two-time Tour winner, admitted his surprise at Aberg being touted so strongly for a place on the team that will be trying to stop Team USA from winning for the first time on European soil in 30 years.
“Yes, I am a little bit,” Pepperell said. “I feel like he kind of needed to win or come very close to winning this week to warrant a pick, and if he doesn’t do that and still gets a pick, I worry a little bit what that means for the guys like, whoever is going to become at the expense of that. Because they have spent this year playing on this Tour, they’ve done well, it’s a tricky one isn’t it?”
“It’s like Jon Rahm in 2016. Would you have picked him? In hindsight maybe, but you have to respect the qualifying system. People like Victor Perez. I know he’s not in great form but he’s still third on the Race to Dubai [the Tour’s order of merit]. Nicolai [Hojgaard] has done well.
“It would be an interesting one and I can see both sides of the coin. I know Luke played with him [Aberg] in Detroit [at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July], and he said it was just as good as when Rory [McIlroy] came out.”
Aberg would be the most inexperienced golfer ever to be picked for the biennial dust-up. His quality is undoubted. In his four months on the PGA Tour, he has topped the driving stats charts, leaving McIlroy and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler in his wake. And the Marco Simone Country Club puts an emphasis on great tee-play.
Donald had hoped to have sidestepped the politics when the LIV Golf rebels were deemed ineligible, but he must realise that an Aberg selection would cause consternation among the rank and file on Tour.
The issue is overshadowing the gripping competition at Crans-sur-Sierre. In any other week that fact that Matt Fitzpatrick (65) leads the way on 12-under, with his brother, Alex (65), in a tie for third two behind, would command the headlines. But the focus is squarely on the Ryder Cup and before Donald announces his captain’s picks, the speculation is on who will secure the final automatic berth from the European Points List.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk could leapfrog Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and was in prime position to do so when reaching the 17th on the mountainous layout on 12-under. But he went bogey, double-bogey to fall back to nine-under and in a tie for fifth. MacIntyre squeezed inside the cut and, if the positions remained the same, the left-hander would secure his debut. However, it is excruciatingly tight.