Emotions will be running high in the rolling Perthshire countryside this week as the season-long quest to become a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup Team reaches its dramatic climax.
The Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles promises to deliver a fascinating finale to a qualification process which began in the mountains of Switzerland last September and ends in the Glens of Scotland this weekend.
For those players already certain of being part of Colin Montgomerie’s side, the week will be a little less tense and the overwhelming emotion will be one of curiosity as to who Captain Montgomerie selects as his three wild cards on Sunday evening.
For those with all to play for over the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles Hotel, there is certain to be an element of stress while that may also apply to a number of candidates waiting to hear if they have been picked.
As tournament Chairman and with title aspirations of his own, Montgomerie can anticipate a busy week on and off the course before his line-up is finalised at the conclusion of play.
Italian Francesco Molinari, Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain are all aiming to hold onto their positions in seventh, eighth and ninth spots in the current standings; Simon Dyson, Ross McGowan and Alvaro Quiros will be trying to force their way into the automatic qualification positions.
Quite simply, Dyson and Quiros must win in order to stand a chance of qualifying, while McGowan must finish no worse than second place at the end of a long and arduous campaign for all the potential Ryder Cup candidates.
Hanson, travels to the majestic Gleneagles buoyed by his hard fought play-off victory last week in the Czech Republic which moved him into the automatic Ryder Cup qualifying positions and he will be looking to cement his place in the side.
He said: “My victory in the Czech Republic was huge for me as I knew I needed to win to get into the team and hopefully I can go to Gleneagles and secure my place.”
Montgomerie, who has won both the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Scottish Open in his homeland, is part of a strong Scottish contingent that also includes the in-form Stephen Gallacher, and South African Open Championship winner Richie Ramsay, as well as former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance who extends his record for most European Tour appearances to 706.
So far, it is only Warren in 2007 who has been able to turn the home support to his advantage since the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles began in 1999 and after a top 30 finish in the Czech Open 2010 last week the man who partnered Montgomerie to World Cup victory in 2006 is looking forward to another shot at the title.
“It’s a tournament I’ve always enjoyed going to obviously being in Scotland,” he said. “It’s a nice treat for us get to stay at home but now I get put up the hotel so I’ll stay there a few nights and make good use of that. It is a special place and known the world over as a great golf venue we are fortunate to have an event there.
“It is one I look forward to every year. I’ve got great memories the obvious one being my win but I’ve had a couple of good events there. It’s a course I enjoy playing and I hear it is in good condition again this year.”
It was a Swede, Peter Hedblom, who triumphed 12 months ago, finishing one shot clear of his compatriot Martin Erlandsson with Frenchman Grégory Havret and 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland sharing third.
For Captain Montgomerie the fact that his Ryder Ryder Cup Team being decided adds to what is already a magnificent event in the calendar for the tournament Chairman.
“There are a lot of players in the mix for the Team who all have a very real chance of claiming one of the nine qualifying spots,” he said. “This will make for an extremely exciting week.”
With a prize fund of €1,696,660 and first prize of €282,772 there is certainly plenty to play for in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
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