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Final battle for Ryder Cup places

Johnnie Walker Championship, Gleneagles
First round starts Thursday 0730 BST

Oliver Wilson
Oliver Wilson is the most vulnerable of those occupying qualifying spots

Six players are competing for the last three qualifying places in Europe's Ryder Cup team at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Justin Rose, Soren Hansen and Oliver Wilson occupy the last three automatic places, but Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher and Nick Dougherty can overtake them.

Ian Poulter opted out of the event, and must hope captain Nick Faldo will name him as one of his two wildcards.

Seven players are currently guaranteed to make the 12-man Ryder Cup team.

Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell have already secured their spots.

But much interest remains as to who Faldo will select as his own two picks, with Darren Clarke, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Colin Montgomerie all in the frame.

Faldo dropped a broad hint while commentating on television at the Barclays Classic in New Jersey last weekend that he had Casey in mind for one selection.

Hopefully I'm past the stage of justifying my Ryder Cup potential; I feel very confident in trying to win this event

Colin Montgomerie

And Clarke's four-shot victory in the KLM Open last Sunday has made the Ryder Cup stalwart one of the favourites for another pick.

Eight-time European number one Montgomerie, who has played in every Ryder Cup match since 1991, is another contender.

But unless he wins at Gleneagles, the 45-year-old Scot's selection would be based more on his sparkling Ryder Cup record, having remained unbeaten in eight singles matches, than recent form.

Montgomerie said: "I have no idea how [Faldo] feels I have to perform this week, but hopefully I'm past the stage of justifying my Ryder Cup potential.

"My game two weeks ago was poor in America and I took a couple of weeks off, the second week I've been practising up here at Gleneagles every day.

"I feel very confident now in trying to win this event.

BBC Sport's Iain Carter

"This course has five par-fives and they are our scoring holes. With four of them reachable (in two shots) for the longer hitters, I feel I'm going to have to be slightly more aggressive to win here than is normal.

"I'm looking for another 20 yards off the tee, I think I've got 15 yards of it so I'm still five short."

Wilson is bidding to become the first player to grab a Ryder Cup cap for Europe without ever winning a tournament in his professional career.

The 27-year-old from Mansfield is hoping, though, that he does not earn that distinction.

"I'd love to be on the team no matter what, but to be on the team with a win under my belt would be fantastic," he said.

"I feel I'm ready and hopefully it will be this week."

Wilson said he felt Poulter - 12th in the table - was "pretty comfortable for a pick" despite his decision to play in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston this week instead.

I must like torture...You learn a lot about yourself playing under this pressure

Soren Hansen

As for his own prospects, Wilson added: "It's a good position to be in - I'd rather be in my position than one back.

"But it's not going to be easy. If it was I'd have won four or five times by now. I'm sure that come Sunday afternoon it's going to be tight.

"With the quality of players in the mix it will not be a case of thinking that finishing 30th will be enough."

Denmark's Hansen, in ninth place on the table, and Fisher, who is 13th, playing in the same group as Montgomerie for the first two rounds at Glenagles, while Rose and Clarke also play together.

"I must like torture," said Hansen after his sixth at the Dutch Open lifted him up a place from 10th to ninth in the table.

"I really battled [last week] and now I'm very close to something I really want.

"You learn a lot about yourself playing under this pressure. I was really hoping to get the job done in the States earlier this month, but it's come down to this.

"It's going to be interesting. The team is looking really, really strong and I hope I can be a part of it."

What the players outside the top 10 automatic spots must aim for:

  • Kaymer (11th) - needs 26th place if Wilson misses the cut, needs sixth if Hansen misses the cut, needs fifth if Rose misses the cut

  • Poulter (12th) not playing - requires wildcard selection

  • Fisher (13th) - needs third place if Wilson misses cut, needs second if Hansen or Rose miss the cut

  • Dougherty (14th) - needs second place if Wilson misses cut, needs to win if Hansen or Rose miss the cut

    see also
    European Ryder Cup rankings
    26 Aug 08 |  Golf

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