European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie has backed “four or five” of his potential 2010 team to secure top ten finishes at this week's US PGA Championship in Minnesota.
The Scot is also playing this week at Hazeltine National having been invited by the PGA of America in his position as Captain for next year's Ryder Cup matches at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.
Montgomerie, who was a runner-up in the 1995 US PGA Championship having lost a play-off with Steve Elkington at Riviera CC, said the depth of talent at Europe's disposal was greater than at any time during his professional career and his probable team for Celtic Manor would come from among the other 31 Europeans at Hazeltine this week.
“Let's hope that (World Number Three) Paul Casey can get over his injury and play and then you'll probably find that the full Ryder Cup team in 2010 will be on show here this week,” Montgomerie said.
“It will be interesting to see how they go. I'll be watching the scores intensely over the next four days, and over the next four Majors after this one, to see what's happening and to see the form on these fantastic set-up of courses.
“We have 31 players. I expect out of that 31 to have four or five in the top ten this week. We have a fantastic wealth of talent in Europe now, more than I've ever witnessed in my 22 years and I'm looking to have four or five of that 31 in the top ten this week, which will be a super effort.”
Asked for candidates for those top-ten finishes, Montgomerie mentioned Europe's most in-form golfer Lee Westwood, US PGA defending champion Padraig Harrington and the continent's highest-ranked player Paul Casey, who was on Wednesday playing a practice round to determine his fitness to tee off in the first round having suffered a rib muscle injury.
“It's difficult at this stage but obviously the one name that springs to mind who is playing as well as anyone and should probably have been in that play-off at least to The Open is Lee Westwood,” he said.
“He's striking the ball as well as anyone. Padraig Harrington, I'm glad that he's showing signs of his great form at the end of last year as well.
“So there's two names and we just hope that Paul Casey is fit enough to compete because obviously a real contender here.”