‘From shock to anger’: Ryder Cup snub searching for answers after emotional call
Adrian Meronk was on a train from Switzerland when he got the call.
He knew Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald would be phoning him; officials from Team Europe had given Meronk that heads up. He was in a good mood, too; he’d just shot a final-round 66 to lock up a T13 finish at the European Masters in Switzerland. Now, he and his girlfriend were sitting together on the railway, expecting good news.
But Donald wasn’t delivering good news.
“To be honest, I was in shock,” Meronk said of his reaction. “Because I was expecting I’d have a pretty decent chance to be on the team — but it was quite a shocking call, yeah.”
Meronk, a 30-year-old Polish pro, recalled the incident on Wednesday from a press conference ahead of the Irish Open. This is where he kicked off his Ryder Cup candidacy last summer; he’d capped off a run of five top-six finishes on the DP World Tour with a win at Mount Juliet. He followed that up with wins at the Australian Open in December and the Italian Open in May. The latter was particularly meaningful given it was played at Marco Simone, host course for the upcoming Ryder Cup. Surely the winner there would have a leg up on the competition.
But not enough of a leg up, apparently. Meronk showed solid form this summer; he posted two more DP World top-fives after the Italian Open, plus a T23 at the Open. He figured capping off his candidacy with a solid result in Switzerland would be more than enough.
He’s still not exactly sure why it wasn’t.
“To be honest, when [Donald] said I’m not going, I kind of stopped listening,” he said. “It was just — I didn’t listen much, to be honest. He was saying that someone had to stay home, it was close, obviously, stuff like that. I wouldn’t want to be in his position. I knew it was tough for him.”
So why didn’t Meronk qualify?
It has less to do with what he did than what others did around him.
Team Europe had six auto-qualifiers; three from its “European Points” list (Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Robert MacIntyre) and three more from its “World Points” list (Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick). Meronk was fifth and 11th on those respective lists and therefore needed one of Donald’s six captain’s picks. But several of those were all but spoken for.
Tommy Fleetwood is playing some of the best golf of his career; he just missed qualifying and was a lock to be picked. Justin Rose put together a rock-solid season on the PGA Tour, too, including a win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am — he was in. So, too, was Shane Lowry, who missed the FedEx Cup playoffs but dished up enough steady golf — including top-20s in the year’s first three majors — to book his ticket to Rome.
The final three picks likely earned their stripes via recent form.
Sepp Straka won the John Deere Classic, flew to England and finished T2 at the Open.
Ludvig Aberg’s talent is undeniable but given he was playing college golf just a few months ago his prospects of making the team were uncertain — at least until a few weeks ago. He finished T14 at the Wyndham Championship, T4 at the Czech Masters and then, if anyone else needed convincing, won the Omega European Masters.
Finally there was Nicolai Højgaard, the Danish 22-year-old with a stellar DP World Tour resume and enough success on the PGA Tour to turn heads. His spot was hardly secure, either. But then he followed Aberg’s path with a T14 at the Wyndham, a third-place finish at the Czech Masters and a T5 result in Switzerland.
That left Meronk on the outside looking in.
“On Monday, the first half of the day was more sadness and disbelief,” he said. “But then anger, yeah, because to be honest last year and a half, I spent a lot of time thinking about this and that was my goal.”
After Keegan Bradley was left off the U.S. Ryder Cup team a week ago he expressed his disappointment and lamented being an “outsider” to the process. Meronk finds himself in a similar boat; he’s neither a Ryder Cup stalwart like Lowry or Rose nor a young star on the rise like Højgaard or Aberg. Like Bradley, he said that next time he’ll focus on automatically qualifying rather than relying on a pick. Like Bradley, his omission was defensible — just unfortunate. Like Bradley, he’s the 13th member of a 12-player team. It’s easy to feel for him. Many people do.
“I talked to my parents and my psychologist, my coach and they all have been quite supportive and to be honest,” he said. “A lot of players on Tour and coaches, caddies, staff, they all have been very supportive to me. You know, texting me, calling me.
“So, yeah. that’s quite nice to see.”
Meronk added that from what he can tell, Polish fans “didn’t take it well.” Some had already bought tickets to watch their countryman represent them in Rome.
“They probably are going to go regardless, but, yeah, they were not happy,” he added. There was a resignation in those final words; it must be tough knowing that despite his omission, the Ryder Cup will go on.
“It’s been an emotional time for me, to be honest,” Meronk said. “From shock to sadness to anger, and now I’m trying to turn it into motivation going into this week.”
There’s a tournament to play, after all — a tournament at which Meronk is the defending champion.
And then there’s two long years to wait.