Colin Montgomerie (Getty Images)
Colin Montgomerie claims he has the toughest task of any European Ryder Cup Captain in history - but insists he will not shy away from the challenge of picking his team.
The battle for a place reaches its climax on Sunday, when Montgomerie will announce his 12 man team following the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
Italian Francesco Molinari, Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain are all aiming to hold on to their positions in seventh, eighth and ninth spots in the current qualifying standings, while English pair Simon Dyson, Ross McGowan and Spain's Alvaro Quiros will be trying to force their way into the automatic positions.
Dyson and Quiros must win in order to stand a chance of qualifying, while McGowan can finish no worse than second.
Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald currently sit outside the nine automatic qualifying places and, with Justin Rose and Molinari’s brother Edoardo also relying on a wild card pick, Montgomerie is forced into a position where he has to leave out two players from the world’s top 22.
“It’s the most difficult decision any captain has had,” Montgomerie said. “We have been very honest in saying it is a very, very difficult task.
“No one envies this position. I'll have to leave out world players for the first time, and that's a headache for me, but at the same time a very nice headache to have.
“I have 20 players that could beat any other player on a given day. And it will be unfortunate that there’s six, eight guys that are going to have be left out that could as to the European cause.”
While Montgomerie revealed he has “an idea” of which players will win the three wild card spots, he is experienced enough to know that much can change between now and Sunday evening.
“I have not made my mind up,” he stressed. “It is impossible to do so because the scenarios might well change.
“There’s a few guys here with a win that can put them right into qualification places, and also with good form at the right time here.
“There is no way that the mind has been made up as to the three selections for Sunday. Yes, I have an idea, but that might well change, so I’ve got to be able to be flexible.”
Montgomerie has a special affection for Gleneagles - he lives just minutes away - and harbours personal ambitions of his own this week, but he knows his attention will be drawn elsewhere at times.
He added: “Obviously there’s one eye on what I'm doing myself and one eye very firmly on what's happening to the guys that have an opportunity of making the team outright when they play here this week.
“I live about five miles from here now, and it's a great place to be. On a day like today, you would wish to be nowhere else.”
Jiménez, meanwhile, is missing his nephew’s wedding in a bid to secure his automatic qualifying berth.
The 46 year old was set to sit out this week’s tournament, but increasing competition for places - and a few choice words from family members - persuaded him to head to Scotland.
Jiménez said: “My nephew told me that they didn’t want to see me any more at the wedding - to go to Scotland and be on the team. But they are waiting for a present, that is what they said.
“I’m in good a position and I want to be on the team. This is one of my last chances to be on the team. I decided to come here and try to save my spot.
“Even if I were resting at home this week, I would be jumping on the sofa. I think it’s better to be here.”
Dyson, who finished fifth at Czech Open 2010 last week to maintain his hopes of qualifying, said: “I’m probably playing the best golf I’ve played all year, and I’ve got one week left, so I might as well just give it everything and just go for it, because I really want to get in it.”
McGowan, another hoping to make a late surge, added: “I haven’t put any pressure on myself at all. I’m happy that I’m playing fairly well, and hopefully this week we can finish off with a win.”