As discussed earlier in the week on www.golf-monthly.co.uk, Europe’s record in the USPGA Championship is so poor that it is almost non-existent. Only a handful of players have finished in the top five and no player from the continent has actually won it. As a record number of Europeans begin their opening rounds later today they will be looking to break the hoodoo and fast track themselves into Ian Woosnam’s Ryder Cup team for the forthcoming match with the USA at the K Club in Ireland.
The urgency is not quite as severe as it is for the American players, but the bumper amount of Ryder Cup ranking points on offer at Medinah due to the USPGA’s standing as a Major championship makes a good performance in Illinois attractive in more ways than one. The American players only have the USPGA Championship left to score points but the Europeans have two further ranking events before Woosnam announces his team on September 4th.
There are two players who appear to be most under threat this week. England’s Luke Donald currently occupies the fifth and final qualifying position on Europe’s World List (see below), one place ahead of Spain’s Sergio Garcia. However, while Garcia has accumulated lots of points in Europe Donald has not, and this leaves him in a compromising position. If Garcia scores well at Medinah, where he finished second at the USPGA in 1999, he may relegate Donald to sixth place on the World List. If this is the case then Woosnam will probably be forced to use a wildcard pick on the Englishman, as unlike Garcia he has very few European points to fall back on and probably won’t qualify automatically from that list.
Donald made his Ryder Cup debut in 2004 as one of skipper Bernhard Langer’s wildcards, and the world number eleven is eager to ensure that Woosnam does not have to resort to the same tactic this time.
“I’ve been in the qualifying places for most of the last two years,” he said.
“It would be disappointing for myself and for Ian Woosnam if I were to fall out of this position so near to the Ryder Cup. I hope to make sure this week that it doesn’t happen.”
The other player in most peril is Ireland’s Paul McGinley. The man who holed the winning putt in 2002 at The Belfry is currently lying in the final qualifying position on the European List but has elected to miss the USPGA Championship so that he can attend Heather Clarke’s funeral. England’s Paul Broadhurst, who is one place behind McGinley, will be looking to make a move this week and put himself in pole position. However, both men would benefit from Garcia overtaking Donald on the World List and such an eventuality would probably see both of them boarding the plane for Ireland at the end of September.
Elsewhere, a win or top ten finish this week for any of Europe’s representatives could put them in contention for a berth on the team. The only players seemingly assured of their places thus far are Colin Montgomerie (Sco), David Howell (Eng), Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Robert Karlsson (Swe) and Garcia.
Current European Ryder Cup Standings
World Points List
1 DAVID HOWELL (Eng), 208.65
2 COLIN MONTGOMERIE (Sco), 207.88
3 JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL (Spa), 202.09
4 HENRIK STENSON (Swe), 201.76
5 LUKE DONALD (Eng), 192.25
6 Sergio Garcia (Spa), 190.30
7 Paul Casey (Eng), 165.33
8 Padraig Harrington (Ire), 154.46
9 Carl Pettersson (Swe), 154.12
10 Robert Karlsson (Swe), 151.46
European Points List
1 Colin Montgomerie (Sco), 2,434,316
2 David Howell (Eng), 2,274,635
3 ROBERT KARLSSON (Swe), 1,870,581
4 Henrik Stenson (Swe), 1,782,889
5 PAUL CASEY (Eng), 1,721,834
6 SERGIO GARCIA (Spa), 1,634,091
7 PADRAIG HARRINGTON (Ire), 1,514,027
8 PAUL MCGINLEY (Ire), 1,473,112
9 Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa), 1,381,698
10 Paul Broadhurst (Eng), 1,336,906
* Top five players on the World List qualify automatically and are joined by the top five players on the European List that have not qualified via the World List. The players currently occupying the qualifying positions are shown in capitals. Captain Ian Woosnam also adds two wildcard picks. Points are available until Sunday 3rd September 2006.