07 Jun 2023

Yannik Paul – Europe’s dark horse

Two years ago, you’d have been forgiven for not knowing the name ‘Yannik Paul’. At 27 years old, he was a young pro persevering on the Challenge Tour with hopes of making it to the ‘big time’. The likelihood of this happening must have seemed slimmer than a blade of grass due to countless others chasing the same goal. But despite golf being a slow game, the sport’s landscape changes undeniably quickly. Paul, now aged 29, is on the verge of automatic Ryder Cup qualification ahead of some huge names.

“I always felt like I was good enough to compete against the best players in the world,” Paul told Worldwide Golf. “You’ve just got to get the right opportunities and take advantage of them.

“At the beginning of my career, I played in Canada and the US, and you can get a stuck a bit. If you don’t win you have to go to Korn Ferry Q-School and if you don’t get through you’ve got to wait another year. I have a good team around me so I’ve just continued to work on the right things and become better. A Challenge Tour chance came around in 2021 which I took advantage of that, and I’ve improved.”

The German graduated from the second tier of European golf two years ago after amassing seven top ten finishes during the season. It was enough to secure a DP World Tour card for 2022 which he went on to take make the most of by winning the Mallorca Golf Open and finishing 12th in the Race to Dubai Rankings. “Now I’m at the stage when I’m out here getting paired with better players and you can see how they play,” added the 29-year-old. “You realise that a lot of things are even better in my own game so that gives me a lot of confidence.”

Paul’s name is now amongst the very best of European golf. In fact, he’s keeping them out of the Ryder Cup team. The Frankfurter – (the city, not the sausage) – is currently above the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry in the European Points List. The top three from the list make Luke Donald’s side for Rome this coming September, and the University of Colorado graduate currently resides in fifth position, closing in on Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick. But how much emphasise is he putting on being there in Rome?

“I’m not sure I’m prioritising it,” responded Paul. “Obviously I’m aware of it just because you start to play with the Captains and the Vice Captains, and stuff like that. It’s not my main goal. It comes when you focus on the things that you can control. If I get better and improve my game, and repeatedly work on the right things then I’ll hopefully get a lot of good results which will hopefully lead to the Ryder Cup. But I’m not trying to build my schedule now, or do anything differently so I have a better chance of playing the Ryder Cup. It’s a by-product of playing well. I know there’s a lot of golf and a lot of big events coming up. There are so many points. I think I need to win one or two events, and then I’ll have a legitimate chance.”

A mere year ago, it would have been almost unthinkable for a German player to win multiple events in the same season. For the best part of a decade, the country’s golfing realm has remained subdued in the upper echelons of the sport. However, a fresh tide of momentum has appeared in recent times, propelling the nation towards a new era of prominence. Maximilian Kieffer’s victory at the D+D Real Czech Masters last season put an end to an eight-year dry spell for German golfers, and since then Marcel Siem, Nick Bachem along with Paul have all followed suit with their own triumphs. With two Major winners in the past – Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer – the country now has a fresh crop of talented golfers that are targeting the very top once more.

“In the last 10 years it was just a handful of Germany guys near the top, now we’re coming from all over the place,” explained Paul. “Seeing other guys succeed helps because then you get more confidence as you’ve played with them a lot growing up. More and more players go over to the States too, which is really helpful to see what it’s like to play on other continents. With the national team you travel a lot growing up playing international events and from a young age playing the best amateurs in the world and I think that prepares you for the next level.”

The ensuing step up for Paul now consists of breaking through once more onto the highly-lucrative PGA Tour. This season, the top ten players on the DP World Tour will receive playing privileges on the American circuit for 2024. This desirable bracket could extend further when you anticipate already-exempt players, such as Jon Rahm, to comfortably finish inside the top ten. It presents a golden opportunity to those hoping to take their career to the next level.

“I want to play in as many Majors and big events as possible,” said Paul. “I want to compete against the best players in the world. I want to get my PGA Tour card and win as many events as possible. That’s my goal, but first to get my card in America as I want to be there. Then you can play against the best players week in week out, but to achieve that you have to play well in a lot of events, and hopefully win a few. I need to finish as high as possible in the rankings by finishing well in the Rolex Series events and the Majors. My game is good enough to contend in those big events.

BROTHERLY LOVE

The golfing world has Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard, Matt and Alex Fitzpatrick, and now it has Yannik and Jeremy Paul. This duo both currently reside in Arizona, with the latter plying his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour. The constant family rivalry and competitive nature which must have ensued during the early years have undoubtedly played a role in the success so far. “We live two minutes from each other at home,” explained Yannik. “When we’re both home we practice together all the time. We’re basically at the same level, he beats me the same amount that I beat him.”

The relationship he describes serves as further evidence golf is becoming ever-more a team game as each day goes by. There’s rarely a winners’ interview where the champion doesn’t praise the support of a caddy, a coach, or someone else behind the scenes. In today’s game, the involvement of external figures is often a key factor in a player’s success or failure. But having a sibling on the same career path as you is a money-can’t-buy luxury that gives both Pauls an edge. “When we’re on the road we Facetime every day, we’re really close,” said the DP World Tour winner. “It’s really helpful that you have someone you can practice with and bounce ideas off. It makes you better.”

Becoming better players will lead to bigger stages, and there aren’t any grander than the Ryder Cup. Family appearances in the event are rare, but they do happen. The Molinari brothers played at Celtic Manor in 2010 which supplies the most recent precedent. Jeremy would need to play like Tiger Woods in his prime between now and September to make Donald’s side, while Yannik being Yannik could be enough to get the job done. But a Paul pairing at Bethpage Black in 2025 is a possibility. The only two Germans to play in a Ryder Cup – Kaymer and Langer – have accumulated a huge 30.5 points between them. German golfers are proven winners, and will be welcome on any upcoming Ryder Cup team. The emergence of both Pauls is another sign the future remains bright for Europe.

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