Montgomerie faces tough call to fill out European Ryder Cup team

European captain faces 'headache' in determining final spots on his team

August 26, 2010|By Jeff Shain

Some prominent name is about to get left out. More than one, really.

It might be Paul Casey or Luke Donald, even though both are ranked among the world's top 10 golf practitioners.

It could be Justin Rose. Or Miguel Angel Jimenez. Or Edoardo Molinari. All have won big tournaments in the last three months.

Could it possibly be three-time major winner Padraig Harrington? Certainly you can all but write off Sergio Garcia.

"It's a headache," European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie said recently. "And it's a nice headache to have."

Montgomerie can pick only three, unless someone from that list gets hot at this week's Johnnie Walker Championship and plays his way into one of the nine automatic berths that lock in Sunday evening.

Then again, some other achiever just as likely would become part of Montgomerie's dilemma.

This week's European Tour stop at Gleneagles — along with the FedEx Cup opener at the Barclays — represent the final chance for Europe's best to take the guesswork out of their Ryder Cup hopes.

Montgomerie will make his three captain's picks immediately afterward, which could make for a topsy-turvy evening.

Jimenez and Peter Hanson currently hold the final two automatic slots but could fall completely off.

Jimenez has two European victories this year. Hanson moved into his spot after winning last week in the Czech Republic.

"I'm going to have to leave out winners," Montgomerie said, "and this is possibly the first time any European captain has had to do that."

Indeed.

In the past, the final European roster often has sent fans to look up such unfamiliar names as Jarmo Sandelin, Paul Way or Paul Broadhurst.

No such dilemma this year. They've been posing with trophies, leapfrogging each other to get onto the roster.

Seven weeks ago, Molinari appeared to be sliding off the radar before the former U.S. Amateur champion won the Scottish Open. Ditto Ross Fisher earlier this month at the Irish Open. Hanson was out last week but is in now.

"I have to play the best I can (this week) to keep the other people behind me," Hanson said.

Compare that with the U.S. roster. Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar claimed automatic berths without winning a tournament. The rest of the roster has combined for eight PGA Tour victories.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson usually combine for that number.

Montgomerie, meanwhile, stands to leave two of the world's top 22 players off his roster. And that doesn't count Garcia, whose 14-4-2 match record is tops in European annals but who is mired in a yearlong slump.

"There's not room for everybody," said Harrington, winless since the 2008 PGA Championship. "Monty has a tough job, no matter what happens."

It's a no-win situation in some aspects, but it sure sets up well when the survivors gather at Celtic Manor in Wales in five weeks.

jshain@tribune.com

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