The close of day two at the US PGA Championship brought differing emotions for the men attempting to secure a place in José María Olazábal's Ryder Cup side that will take on the USA in September.
With a huge prize fund of $8million on offer this week at the final Major Championship of the year in South Carolina, the stakes are high as The Ryder Cup qualification race comes to a head.
Indeed, for Davis Love III’s team, the battle over Kiawah Island represents the final week in which to accrue points to make the American side, as the top eight come the end of play Sunday will book a seat in the USA locker room for the biennial transatlantic clash at Medinah Country Club.
For the European contingent this might not yet be D-Day but it is fast approaching, as two weeks on Sunday the culmination of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles marks the end of the year-long qualification process, when ten players will secure automatic spots on the plane to Chicago – five from the European Points List and the following five from the World Points List – while a further two will join the team via a Captain’s Pick on August 27.
Despite insisting he is keeping his thoughts trained firmly on his efforts to secure the Wanamaker Trophy this week on the Ocean Course, Ian Poulter will no doubt be acutely aware of what a positive impact his thus far excellent tournament is having on his chances of making The Ryder Cup squad.
While many are of the opinion the Englishman would be a shoe-in for one of the wildcard picks available were he not to climb into the top ten, Poulter is determined to get there on his own steam.
And when a man of Ian Poulter’s resolve has his mind set on something, he usually gets it.
The 36 year old is a three-time veteran of The Ryder Cup, often seen as embodying the spirit and passion of team golf’s premium event, and after backing up his first round 70 with an excellent 71 in brutal conditions on Friday – one of only four men to finish under par in a testing second round – pushed him into fourth place after 36 holes.
Poulter currently resides in 12th place on the World Points List with 143.14 points but were he to finish in fourth as he is now he would claim 30 points thus propelling him into ninth position and with it overhauling Martin Kaymer – who will gain no points this week after missing the cut following consecutive rounds of 79 – while Sergio Garcia (currently in the last automatic spot) would be pushed out of the top ten entirely after also missing out on the weekend in South Carolina.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson (currently eighth in the standings) is doing his best to secure his spot in the team and is currently tied for 11th after rounds of 69 and 75, while outsiders Gonzalo Fernandez- Castaño (currently 14th) and Marcel Siem (16th) have given themselves a hint of hope for making a late Ryder Cup charge after tying for 16th following the second round.
Thomas Bjorn – in spot 15 as it stands – also made the cut and will be hoping for a strong weekend performance to attempt to make some inroads into the points deficit.
Nicolas Colsaerts (currently 11th in the World Points List) will be disappointed to have missed the cut on a course that was expected to suit his prodigious long game, as will Dubai Desert Classic Champion Rafael Cabrera-Bello (currently three spots outside of automatic qualification) who followed a first round 71 with a nine over par 81 to miss out on weekend action and the chance of improving his Ryder Cup prospects.
Incidentally, both Ryder Cup Captains also failed to make the 36-hole cut on Friday, as 72 players progressed into the weekend at Kiawah Island on six over par or better.