A FINAL BERTH on the Europe Ryder Cup team will be the target for several players when the Johnnie Walker Championship begins tomorrow morning.
Europe won the last Ryder Cup – the biennial transatlantic showdown against the United States – by a single point at Celtic Manor, Wales, in 2010.
In September, Jose Maria Olazabal and his team will head to the Medinah Country Club, Illinois, looking to retain the trophy and continue their recent dominance of the competition.
A win in Chicago would be Europe’s fifth victory in six attempts and seventh in the past nine, a far cry from the United States’ 24-year winning streak between 1959 and 1983.
It took the expansion of a British team to include European players to finally break the drought, with the new-look Europe winning by five points at the Belfry in 1985.
Several in-form European players could have a say again this year, but to make the team they must produce a strong performance in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland.
Among the nine players assured of a spot on the 12-man European line-up are Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, along with Englishmen Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood.
Scotsman Paul Lawrie will make his first Ryder Cup appearance since 1999, the year of his only major championship victory in the British Open at Carnoustie.
Italian Francesco Molinari made his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor two years ago and has already confirmed his spot on the 2012 roster.
His brother Edoardo won the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2010 to earn a wildcard pick from then-European captain Colin Montgomerie, but a wrist injury has ruined his chances of helping to defend the Ryder Cup.
“Although I’m sad not to be part of it this year, it’s great to see my brother has almost made it into the team, hopefully he can put in a good performance at the Johnnie Walker Championship to cement his place,” Edoardo Molinari said. When I was given a wildcard into Colin’s team it was one of the best weeks of my life and for those guys challenging for qualification, and in good form, winning the Johnnie Walker Championship may just do it for them too.”
Swede Peter Hanson and Spaniard Sergio Garcia make up the nine confirmed team members, the latter courtesy of his victory at the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship on Monday.
German Martin Kaymer holds the 10th and final automatic spot going into the Johnnie Walker, with Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts his nearest challenger. Kaymer will not contest the Johnnie Walker, meaning Colsaerts has a chance to play his way into the team with a strong performance.
Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn is the defending champion at the Johnnie Walker following his playoff victory in Perthshire last year. The Irish interest at Gleneagles will be provided by Northern trio: Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin and Darren Clarke along with Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton.