Six of Europe's 1999 Ryder Cup team will be in Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland, this week for the Canon European Masters and the start of the year-long qualification process leading up to the 34th edition of the Ryder Cup Matches at The De Vere Belfry next September.
Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion who made such an impact on his Ryder Cup debut at The Country Club, Brookline, is in the field at one of the most scenic venues on the European Tour along with defending champion Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jiménez, and Jarmo Sandelin.
The return of Ryder Cup points also brings Nick Faldo back on to the European scene. Faldo, the all-time record points scorer in the biennial competition against the United States, is bidding to make a 12th appearance in the competition.
Faldo, who has shown improved form of late, has entered three of the next four tournaments in the hope of making a flying start to the qualification process, which ends at the BMW International Open in Munich in a year's time.
Last year, Westwood captured his third European Tour victory from consecutive starts by winning a thrilling last day contest with Denmark's Thomas Björn. He became only the third player on the Tour to achieve that distinction following in the illustrious footsteps of Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.
Westwood fired a closing 65 to Björn's 66 to win the tournament by two strokes. It was the tall Dane's first close call for several months due to a prolonged neck injury, and Björn has admitted that he is anxious to return to Ryder Cup duty after missing the contest in 1999. Björn will start among the favourites for the title, first played in 1923, following a string of outstanding performances throughout the season culminating in his richly deserved victory in the BMW International Open in Munich last week.
Sam Torrance, the 2001 European Ryder Cup captain and Ballesteros - a victorious skipper in 1997 - will both play high in the Alps along with a number of past champions of the event including Anders Forsbrand, Chris Moody, Ronan Rafferty, Jamie Spence (joint course record holder with a 60), Barry Lane, Eduardo Romero, Mathias Grönberg, Costantino Rocca and Sven Strüver.