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Tuesday, 02 September 2003
The year long race to earn a place on the European Team for The 35th Ryder Cup Matches begins this week with a host of contenders launching their campaigns high in the Swiss Alps at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club at the Omega European Masters.

The Ryder Cup qualification process takes on a different shape this year with five players qualifying from a Ryder Cup World Points list, based on all world ranking events starting on Thursday, and five players from a Ryder Cup European Points List, based upon money earned on The European Tour International Schedule. The remaining two players for the Matches, which will take place at Oakland Hills Country Club from September 17-19, will be picked by Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain, Bernhard Langer.

Much of the focus will be on the Europeans vying to make a solid start to The Ryder Cup points race with Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, both members of the victorious 2002 Ryder Cup Team, leading the way.

Sergio Garcia arrives back in Europe showing significant form having shared the lead with Open Champion, Ben Curtis, after the first round of the WGC-NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club before finishing tied for 30th while Montgomerie produced in 1996 a phenomenal weekend of scoring (61-63) to capture the prestigious title, which was inaugurated 80 years ago.

Ernie Els of South Africa, the current Number One on the Volvo Order of Merit and a three-time winner on The 2003 European Tour International Schedule, heads the field for the Tour’s annual Alpine visit.

Els has yet to taste success amid the spectacular mountain scenery but he arrives in Switzerland in solid form, having fared no worse than 71 in his eight rounds at the US PGA Championship and the WGC – NEC Invitational in the United States before shooting rounds of 68, 71, 74 and 64 to finish on 11 under par 277 in a share of 17th place in last week’s BMW International Open in Munich.

Including Montgomerie, there are 12 champions, past and present, who will tee up at Crans-sur-Sierre. Sweden’s Robert Karlsson defends the title he secured with a wire-to-wire victory 12 months ago. Karlsson arrives in Switzerland in good form having led last week’s BMW International Open for two days before being overhauled by England’s Lee Westwood down the closing stretch.

In fact, the course at Crans-sur-Sierre appears to be a front runner’s dream, as the 2000 champion, Eduardo Romero of Argentina, led all the way and his compatriot, Ricardo Gonzalez, did likewise by leading from the front in 2001.

Other past champions taking part are three time winner, Seve Ballesteros of Spain, Sweden’s Mathias Grönberg, Barry Lane and Chris Moody of England, Ireland’s Ronan Rafferty, Costantino Rocca of Italy, Jamie Spence of England and Germany’s Sven Strûver.

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