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Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell among Europe's big names at risk of Ryder Cup agony

The foursome would not currently qualify automatically

Here’s a chilling Ryder Cup thought; were the European team to be announced today, none of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood or Graeme McDowell would be on it without a captain’s pick. Since there are only three of those, something had better change for Europe’s front-line warriors if they are to guarantee selection at Gleneagles next September.

The world is turning. Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, a winner in Turkey and third at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last week, Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Joost Luiten of the Netherlands and late-developing Welshman Jamie Donaldson are the early candidates to accompany serial winner Henrik Stenson, FedEx Cup winner and Race to Dubai champion, and Ian Poulter, both of whom would have to disappear over the Bermuda Triangle not to make Paul McGinley’s team.

McIlroy, Donald and Westwood have not won this year. The good news is all three finished in a share of fifth in Dubai, suggesting a corner has been turned. Donald’s swing changes under his new coach are beginning to bear fruit. McIlroy is at last achieving consistency. Westwood showed with a 65 on Saturday that when the putts drop he is always a factor. His problem this year has been getting the ball close, a detail he will be attending to on his return to Florida.

“I’ve not been playing very well. I’ve not been hitting it close and not been making anything. My swing hasn’t been in sync all year, I’m sort of fumbling my way around the golf course and it’s something I’m going to work on over the winter, but I can build on the momentum this week has given me,” Westwood said.

Donald can hardly wait for the year to end. “I’m looking forward to a fresh start,” he said. “There’s something about when that date changes to 1 January and you can start over. Thirteen has not been a lucky number for me.”