The Masters: Jonas Blixt 'in the driving seat' to make Europe's Ryder Cup team
'Swede shows he has got the heart to perform on the big occasion'
Last Updated: 14/04/14 11:17am
Europe skipper Paul McGinley says Jonas Blixt is right in the mix to make his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles - and fight it out again with fellow Masters runner-up Jordan Spieth.
The Swede carded a final round 71 at Augusta National to end the tournament on five under par alongside 20-year-old American Spieth, both men finishing three shots behind winner and now two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
Blixt, 29, suggested he might be in the running for Europe's September showdown with America by finishing fourth in the US PGA Championship last August and McGinley said that four sub-par rounds at Augusta proves he has mettle - although Blixt did forget McGinley's name at the post-match press conference!
"Jonas put himself in the driving seat to possibly make the team," said McGinley, whose team - to be announced on August 31 - will comprise of the top four players in the European Points list, five from the World Points List and three wildcard picks.
"He was quite far back on points before this week; he's performed well again for the second consecutive Major, having played very well at the US PGA when there were also points available.
"It's quite clear that he's a man for the big occasion; he wasn't daunted by coming down the stretch in a Major championship. Certainly he's a player who would be good enough for the Ryder Cup team; it's up to him as to how he plays in the summer as to whether he makes it or not.
"His short game was special. I think he was third or fourth in putting for the week but his chipping was superb too.
"But it wasn't just that. 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."
Watson's win meant that Spieth, who led by two strokes with 11 holes remaining but in the end could only manage a final day a level-par 72, missed out on becoming the youngest ever Masters winner.
However, McGinley said the prospect of seeing the two-time US Junior Amateur tee it up against Blixt in this year's Ryder Cup "could well happen".
"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, so they are going to have a few rookies and it looks as though we are going to have a few too," he reflected.
"It looks as if Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson are nailed-on as rookies too - and maybe Blixt as well."
Veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez was one of six European players to finish in the top 10, along with Blixt, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Bernhard Langer and Thomas Bjorn.
The Spaniard finished fourth on a four-under-par total of 284 and is firmly focused on winning back a place in Europe's Ryder Cup team, having played in the 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2010 editions.
There was no catching Watson, though, who never looked back after turning a two-shot deficit into a two-shot cushion at the turn.
McGinley said that the margin of the American's victory should not detract from the character shown by the champion.
"This was a mental victory," he said. "There is not a golf course in the world that is more suited to Bubba Watson than Augusta National.
"Very rarely at Augusta do you aim at flags - you aim at slopes and you work the ball away off the slopes towards the pin and he moves the ball better than anybody in the modern game - and he's long too.
"So we knew his game suited but the big thing was he really did step up to the peg mentally and all credit to him he did put in a virtuoso performance."
He added: "Bubba had control of the tournament; he played the back nine so well that no-one was able to come at him. His drive at 13 was probably the shot that won the tournament for him - it went 350-370 yards, and it was down the left-hand side so he had the perfect angle into the green.
"His relationship with his caddie is important - they are very, very good friends; they are a little bit like Phil Mickelson and Bones [Jim Mackay].
"The green jacket was well deserved; he won it - it wasn't given to him."
Fellow Sky Sports pundit Colin Montgomerie - who steered Europe to Ryder Cup victory as Captain in 2010 - said a drastic improvement in Watson's short game, coupled with the memory of the American's victory in 2012, had proved the difference coming down the stretch.
"I think that having won the Masters once already it gave him that confidence and belief that he can do it again," said the Scot.
"It was interesting that he said [after round three] that 'if it works, it works - I've still got a green jacket'. He took the pressure off completely in thinking that everyone else hadn't won the Masters before so they had to play catch up and they had to do it all.
"He had 11 single putts today out of 18. The way he putted that back nine yesterday no-one would ever think that he'd have 11 single putts; that's why he won the Masters by three shots."
Don't miss our special programme, 'How the Masters was Won', from 8pm tonight on Sky Sports 4.