With Captain José María Olazábal and his four assistants all in the field for the Omega European Masters, European team-mates Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson will both be keen to enhance their claims for a starting berth when The Ryder Cup kicks off in three weeks’ time.
Both men will be making their second Ryder Cup appearances at Medinah Country Club, but whilst Hanson played his part in Europe’s dramatic victory at the Celtic Manor Resort two years ago, it is some 13 years since Lawrie sampled the unique atmosphere of golf’s greatest team competition.
Intriguingly, Lawrie has been paired with Vice Captain Thomas Björn, the defending champion, in the first two rounds of the €2.1million tournament, whilst Hanson will compete under the watchful eye of two more men who will hope to oversee another European triumph in Illinois, former champion Miguel Angel Jiménez and erstwhile Open Champion Darren Clarke.
Lawrie, chasing back-to-back victories after winning last week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, believes European hopes of retaining The Ryder Cup have been bolstered by the additions of Nicolas Colsaerts and Ian Poulter, Olazábal’s two wildcard picks.
He said: “I think we’ve got a very good chance. People talk a lot about form going into the event, but I don’t think it matters too much how the two teams are playing ahead of the event, because it’s going to be very close either way. It’ll probably come down to a missed putt here or a holed putt there at crucial times, like it usually does.
“I think the two Captain’s picks have definitely added strength to the side, because they’re both very good players and they finished 11th and 12th in the list. So they fully deserve their places, and I fully expect them to play their parts in what I hope will be a European victory.”
Björn was equally bullish about Europe’s prospects of gaining a victory on American soil for the first time since 2004, but was also very wary of the threat posed by a US team he labelled “the strongest for 15 years”.
He added: “I’m looking forward to it very much. I think we’ve got 12 very, very good players, and we’ve got a good mix of experience and youth. We’ve also got a really good attitude in the Team, so there’s all the right components to have a very good Ryder Cup. Now they just need to play well, but that’s down to the players.
“We have our methods in place to bring them together and get behind one another, and if we get all the right ingredients in place, we should be in for a good week. The players know what’s required of them, they just have to go out there and do the business. That’s not a worry for me, but it’s going to be tough, because they’re up against a very strong American team. We know how tough it’s going to be, but we’ll come prepared and give it our utmost. Hopefully it’ll be good enough.”