Is Henrik Stenson playing himself onto the European Ryder Cup team?

The Swede has found a sudden burst of form that could persuade skipper Padraig Harrington to add him to his list of potential wildcards.

The idea of Henrik Stenson playing in this year's Ryder Cup was a ridiculous one when he trudged off the course in round two of the Open Championship at Royal St George's.

Rounds of 71-71 weren't bad but they weren't good enough either. With scoring favourable, Stenson's efforts left him the wrong side of the cut line.

It was becoming a familiar feeling.

The man who lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Troon in 2016 had now missed five of his last six cuts: his world ranking had plummeted to 183.

From 2013 to 2017, Stenson's end-of-year ranking was always inside the world's top 10. He was an elite player and still thriving in his 40s.

And a further look at those historical world rankings offered a clue that maybe we shouldn't be writing him off just yet.

In both 2008 and 2009, Stenson ended the year ranked No.8. Just two campaigns later he'd crashed to 207th.

Were his best years behind him? Most definitely not. Two years after that 2011 slump, he was up to No.3 again.

In other words, we've seen this movie before: Stenson can tumble down the longest snakes on the board but, just as quickly, make his way back up the tallest ladders.

And so here we go again.

After that dreadful run of five missed cuts out of six, he's burst to life in the last few weeks with a tied fourth place in the Czech Masters followed by a solo third in the Omega European Masters.

The good times continued in round one of the Italian Open on Thursday as he threw down a 7-under 64 to tie the clubhouse lead. Stenson's last four rounds on the European Tour now read: 64, 63, 71, 64.

Ryder Cup looming large

It certainly isn't lost on Stenson that the Ryder Cup is just three weeks away.

While automatic qualification seems far fetched, getting a wildcard from his good friend Padraig Harrington may not be.

Stenson said recently: "If I want to have any chance to make the team, this is the 11th hour to wake up

"I'm playing four weeks in a row on the European Tour with that intention. I hope I can bring a few birdies for Padraig to consider me in the end, but I need to get going at this point."

The Irishman has three captain's picks to hand out following next week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and there's an obvious precedent for giving one of those to a veteran performer like Stenson.

At the 2018 Ryder Cup, Thomas Bjorn decided to lean heavily on experience: he ignored the clamour for younger players by selecting three players in their 40s and another in his late 30s. Stenson was one of them, joining Sergio GarciaIan Poulter and Paul Casey.

Bjorn's decision paid off handsomely. They delivered 9.5pts between them, Stenson winning all three of his matches, and were worth their weight in gold in the dressing room too.

It must surely be in Harrington's thoughts to do something similar.

If Stenson - on the winning side in three of his previous five Ryder Cups - can have a big week in Italy and another at Wentworth, just maybe that will be enough to get him a late call.

St Andrews should suit Stenson

Beyond that short-term goal, Stenson must surely be thinking about the future too and the prizes that could still come his way.

The Open Championship returns to St Andrews in 2022 and he was tied third in the 2010 edition there.

It's a while away but, if he continues his return to form, that 200/1 will be snapped up quickly.

During one of his missed cut weeks, Stenson was asked if it was hard to keep putting the effort in given that his game wasn't good and he was now 45.

He was quick to rebuff any ideas that he'd fallen out of love with the game.

"I feel like I've put a lot of time and effort in here the last couple of months for sure to try and find some form," he explained.

"Yes, it's getting better. I'm too stubborn and too unhappy with myself if I don't get the game to where I want to. Yeah, motivation is not leaving us on that end."

With Whistling Straits around the corner, Stenson is hitting the right notes at the perfect time.

READ MORE: Europe seeking just a second win on American soil: Solheim Cup preview

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