Ryder Cup race reaches Gleneagles climax

8/20/2012 2:29:18 PM
Nicolas Colsaerts   (Getty Images)
Nicolas Colsaerts (Getty Images)
Nicolas Colsaerts enters this week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles chasing the final automatic spot in the European Team for The 2012 Ryder Cup after Sergio Garcia’s win in the USA earned the Spaniard a place in next month’s showdown at Medinah Country Club.

The Spaniard moved into the eighth spot in the qualification standings with his first US PGA Tour victory in four years at the Wyndham Championship and in the process edged Martin Kaymer to tenth place and Ian Poulter out of the automatic places into 11th.

With Kaymer not playing this week in Scotland, Colsaerts has the opportunity to beat the German to the post and claim the final place for the European Team’s title defence at The Ryder Cup, which takes place at the Illinois venue from September 28-30.

The Belgian has been on the brink of qualification throughout this year, winning the Volvo World Match Play Championship in May to boost his credentials significantly, and he will need to win or finish tied second with no more than two other players this week if he is to steal the final automatic spot.

His endeavours at Gleneagles could provide as fascinating a finale as in 2010, when Italian Edoardo Molinari won the title over the PGA Centenary Course to earn a Captain’s Pick from Colin Montgomerie.

The wild card picks always provide an element of intrigue, and a number of players will nervously await José María Olazábal’s announcement on Monday August 27, the day after the conclusion of the tournament.

Olazábal, who faces a busy week as he is also playing in the event, will have one final chance to run the rule over several contenders at Gleneagles.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello and David Lynn will both be eager to impress this week in the hope of securing a Captain’s Pick, after falling out of the running for the automatic places in the wake of Garcia’s victory in North Carolina.

The PGA Centenary Course – venue for The 2014 Ryder Cup – has undergone a series of enhancements under the guidance of the layout’s original designer, Jack Nicklaus, and the 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles will provide the first insight into how the world’s leading professionals respond to the remodelling.

“The 18th hole was the biggest change,” said Nicklaus. “We dropped the green five or six metres and created a tremendous amphitheatre. It’s exciting - there will be birdies, eagles and bogeys on it and you’re going to get shots that change hands. I think they will enjoy it.”

The tournament has become synonymous with tense finishes, particularly in 2011 when Thomas Björn, one of Olazábal’s Vice Captains, took the title after a five-man, five-hole play-off.

It was the first time since 1992 that The European Tour had witnessed a five-man play-off, and Björn saw off George Coetzee, Mark Foster, Pablo Larrazábal and Bernd Wiesberger to claim his second of three wins that season.

Paul Lawrie, who will definitely be part of the European Team in America next month, leads the Scottish contingent, which also features 2007 champion Marc Warren and Montgomerie, who will attempt to win the tournament for the first time.

For the second successive year the Championship organisers have set the Friday ticket price to just £5. Once again Gleneagles will donate all the revenue from on-the-day ticket sales to clubgolf, Scotland’s junior golf development programme.

Tickets are available at the course and at www.europeantourtickets.com. Parking is free. For full details on the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles visit www.johnniewalkerchampionship.com; for further details on The Gleneagles Hotel, visit www.gleneagles.com