Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts are waiting with baited breath for the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles next month, after which the European Team for The 2012 Ryder Cup will be announced.
All three have won on The European Tour this season and are hoping to be in José María Olazábal’s team for the contest at Medinah Country Club, but currently only Lawrie is in the qualifying spots while Cabrera-Bello and Colsaerts are just shy in the World Points List.
Lawrie, who won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy in February and has risen to 30th in the Official World Golf Ranking – moving up 242 places in 15 months – is third in the European Points list with six counting events left.
"I think I’m almost there, but when you're there is when the team sheet comes out on the Monday after the Johnnie Walker Championship, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
"You can go from third to sixth in a couple of weeks if you have a bad spell and other people make a lot of money so there’s a small bit of work to be done.”
Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner Cabrera-Bello strengthened his case for his first Ryder Cup cap with a tied second place finish in the Irish Open at the beginning of the month, leaving the 28 year old just one spot away from making the Team on the World Points List.
“It’s looking like the race to get into José’s team will go right down to the wire so I’m getting ready for what will be one of the most important run of tournaments in my life, culminating at the Johnnie Walker Championship,” said the Spaniard. “Fingers crossed I will be in a qualifying position and can put in a good final performance at the 2014 Ryder Cup venue.”
Colsaerts proved his Ryder Cup pedigree after a convincing victory at the Volvo World Match Play in May. The 29 year old is two places away from a Ryder Cup spot through the World Points List and is hoping to become the first Belgian to play in the biennial contest.
“It's always been a dream of mine as a kid to play in The Ryder Cup,” he said. “I’m in a healthy position but there's still a long way to go. We still have six tournaments and there are a lot of candidates. Hopefully I can have a good run and make it into the Team after the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.”
The trio will be joined by a whole host of players looking to impress Olazábal at Gleneagles. The Ryder Cup Captain will announce his two picks (on August 27) at the Gleneagles Hotel to complete the 12-man European Ryder Cup Team who will defend the trophy against the United States from September 28-30.
“It’s great for me to have a final chance to look at who is really on top of their game at Gleneagles,” said Olazábal. “Time is flying, there are less than three months until the Ryder Cup tees off and the Team is really starting to shape up. Announcing my wildcard picks on the Monday allows me to see who’s hot at the Johnnie Walker Championship but also anyone playing in the States. I know it will be a very tough decision to make.”
Since the last thrilling climax to Ryder Cup qualification in 2010, Gleneagles has embarked on a series of enhancements to the course in preparation for The 2014 Ryder Cup under the guidance of the layout's original designer, Jack Nicklaus.
With the Perthshire course recently reopened, the 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship will provide the first insight into how the world's leading professionals respond to the remodelling.
“The 18th hole was the biggest change,” said Nicklaus. “We dropped the green five or six metres and created a tremendous amphitheatre. It’s exciting, there will be birdies, eagles and bogeys on it and you’re going to get shots that change hands. I think they will enjoy it.”
For the second successive year the Championship organisers have set the Friday ticket price to just £5. Once again Gleneagles will donate all the revenue from on-the-day ticket sales to clubgolf, Scotland’s junior golf development programme.
Tickets are available at the course and at www.europeantourtickets.com. Parking is free. For full details on the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles visit www.johnniewalkerchampionship.com; for further details on The Gleneagles Hotel, visit www.gleneagles.com