Ryder Cup players past, present and future are out in force in Germany when the Linde German Masters takes place at Gut Lärchenhof, Cologne, as the chase for valuable points for The 35th Ryder Cup Matches at Oakland Hills Country Club exactly 12 months away begins to gather pace in earnest.
Nine of the 2002 European Team are in action, including Darren Clarke, who makes his return to The European Tour International Schedule after winning the prestigious World Golf Championships – NEC Invitational via a short pitstop on the Challenge Tour in his native Northern Ireland last week.
Clarke, the 1996 champion, is joined in the field by his victorious colleagues from The De Vere Belfry Niclas Fasth, Pierre Fulke, Padraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer, Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie, Phillip Price and Lee Westwood.
Langer, Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain for 2004, who co-promotes the Linde German Masters with his brother, Erwin, will be seeking his fifth title following victories in 1989, 1991, 1997 and 2001.
Montgomerie was successful in the first Linde German Masters to be played at Gut Lärchenhof in 1998 while Harrington was defeated in a three-way play-off with Ian Woosnam and eventual winner, Sergio Garcia, the following year.
Both Harrington and Westwood will be chasing a ‘German double’ this week. The Irishman edged out Thomas Björn in a play-off for the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe in Hamburg in May while Westwood ended almost three years without a title when he bounced back to form by capturing the BMW International Open in Munich three weeks ago.
The competitive nature of the field is borne out by the number of champions from The 2003 European Tour International Schedule in the field – 23 in total, including 2001 Linde German Masters winner, Michael Campbell of New Zealand.
Defending Champion, Australian Stephen Leaney, who ran American Jim Furyk so close in the US Open Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club, Illinois, earlier this year, withdrew to return home to Perth to be with his pregnant wife.