If Luke Donald hopes to narrow and eventually close the gap between Europe and the US giants to reclaim the Ryder Cup in October, it will likely take a breakthrough star or two. The powerful Pole Adrian Meronk steps forward.
The 29-year-old is now a three-time DP World Tour winner and is in the top 50 in the world at this month’s Italian Open after a difficult final round in Rome’s dress rehearsal with Marco Simone.
With his imposing height of 1.80 m, Meronk’s game builds on the stable foundation he created from the tee. There he holds a lead of +1.25 strokes this year when driving and thus consolidates his second place to the same extent last year (+0.85). Donald, who is fifth on the Tour in the Greens in the 2023 regular season, is clearly impressed and even congratulated Meronk in Rome before reiterating that the Pole is on track to make the team.
“He had some nice words about my best shots on Sunday. “I’ll also see him at the PGA Championship in Oak Hill this week,” says Meronk Independent on his encounter with Europe’s captain and former world No. 1.
“There was some pressure. Sunday was tough, a real challenge. You can see the Ryder Cup stands, flags and golf carts. It’s all there, you can’t miss it.
“But it made it even more exciting and the relief of the win was even greater than usual. It’s such an important win that we’re trying to get into the team. It’s not over yet, but I made a clear statement: It would be a dream come true.”
Meronk, the first Polish winner of the DP World Tour, grew up in Poznań near the German border. The couple, who had been taught the game by their father and had little opportunity to play, made three-hour trips to Szczecin on Fridays to play as much golf as possible before returning to school on time late Sunday.
His breakthrough on the tour came at the Irish Open last year before claiming a second victory Down Under at the Australian Open in December.
And the underlying numbers behind his game could further strengthen his arguments should he not automatically secure a spot on the European points list – where he currently sits fifth. Away from his own game, Edoardo Molinari, who will serve as one of Donald’s vice-captains for the Rome spectacle, is known for counting with numbers, having worked with US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and his now-famous spreadsheet library to help everyone to document blow .
Meronk also has experience of working closely with Molinari, who may confide in Donald who the Pole’s play might suit exactly. But while Meronk lacks team golf experience since graduating from East Tennessee State University in the NCAA, he’s confident there are plenty of opportunities.
“I know Victor [Hovland] “A bit from college,” emphasizes Meronk, who met the Norwegian during his time at Oklahoma State University.
“Tyrrell too, I got to know him a bit better and I know Jon Rahm from our college days too.
“I’m sure I can get along with anyone and play with anyone. I’m easygoing and my game lends itself to four-ball or four-pointers.
“My game is solid, I get the ball in play, I can see myself in the team.”
In his first year playing all the majors, a PGA championship debut at Oak Hill offers Meronk another opportunity to cement his place in Donald’s memory.
And while the fiendish conditions will test Meronk’s game, a chance encounter with Tiger Woods last summer on the Old Course provides further inspiration for his recent victories.
“It was a dream come true,” Meronk recalls. “I showed up on the 10th in the morning, Tiger was there with his caddy, I just went for it, I asked if I could play nine holes of golf with him. I was nervous but after three holes we chatted and laughed a lot.
“He gave me good advice when I was playing at St Andrews. It was a great experience being there with him for two hours, such a historic event, very special and I was very lucky.”
“He asked me how I started playing, he congratulated me on my win in Ireland, his first British Open and the time at St Andrews, his health and his children. Nice conversation, I was surprised how open he was. I thought he was pretty aloof, but he was so open and friendly. An amazing experience.”