Europe captain Luke Donald can only look at the BMW PGA Championship leaderboard and wonder if it could get any better two weeks out from the Ryder Cup.
Not only is Ludvig Aberg (66) – the 23-year-old Swede who Donald last week picked as the most inexperienced wildcard in the history of the biennial dust-up – leading by two on 16-under going into the final round at Wentworth, but lined up in behind are several of his team-mates.
Tommy Fleetwood (67) is in a tie for second with Conor Syme (65) – the talented Scot who will not be in Rome – while Jon Rahm (66), is on 12-under, and Sepp Straka (69) and Tyrrell Hatton (69) on 11-under are also in the top 10. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy shot a 67 to move up to six-under after scraping through to the weekend.
In fact, all 12 of the blue-and-gold brigade are still on the scoreboard after surviving the cut. Even Donald did, the former champion marching forwards in the Tour’s flagship event for the final two rounds for the first time in six years. Little wonder the Englishman was full of smiles after signing for a 71.
What a transformation from the same event two years ago. Now, the dozen are playing free and easy and enjoying the challenge. Two years ago, Padraig Harrington’s group looked tight and uneasy as they fretted about who would and who would not be on the flight to Wisconsin.
Last week, Harrington finally admitted to Telegraph Sport he made a mistake by making the Wenworth featurepiece the last qualifying tournament in the build-up to the record 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits.
On that occasion, the West Course witnessed a frantic Sunday which featured Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood at times looking likely to drop out of the automatic places.
“We don’t need this two weeks before a Ryder Cup,” Westwood said. “It is going to be draining and you don’t want to be going into a Ryder Cup drained.”
However, Harrington continued to justify this ploy, as he did with all of his decisions as captain despite the record loss. “I wanted to see how the players performed under pressure,” he said.
But now he is willing to recognise the error.
“Fair enough I got that one wrong,” he said. “Some of the players who would have been in the team regardless of how they played at Wentworth found the scenario extremely stressful and it would have been better to have picked the team, or at least say, 11 of the team, beforehand, and maybe left just one wildcard to be chosen on that Sunday, eight days before we flew out to Wisconsin.
“But I will say this. The fact that they have an event like Wentworth – the Tour’s flagship event – so close to the Ryder Cup is a good thing. Players are used to trying to peak at majors by playing if not the week beforehand then at least a fortnight beforehand. You don’t want to be going into the match rusty.”
Harrington did not say it, but that could be the problem for Team USA. While Justin Thomas and Max Homa are playing on the PGA Tour in California this week, 10 of Zach Johnson’s golfers will not have teed it up competitively for almost five weeks when the Ryder Cup begins a week on Friday.
By then, Aberg’s astonishing stardom could be even more in the ascendancy. This is just his 10th tournament as a pro and after winning his ninth – the European Masters the day before Donald selected his six picks – he is in place to go back-to-back in a beginning to a career which would rival that of Tiger Woods, McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.