The end of the long and winding road that the stars of the European Tour must take in order to qualify for September’s Ryder Cup is looming large on the horizon with just three more pit-stops to go before the teams are announced.
The likes of Rose, Westwood and Donald from England and McIlroy and McDowell from Northern Ireland are already assured a place in the team that will take on the USA at Medinah Country Club but what of the contingent from Continental Europe?
Rewind to the end of last year and the beginning of 2012 and you may remember that the Spaniards on tour were rattling off wins like they were going out of fashion. Alvaro Quiros conquered the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates on the way to winning the Dubai World Championships before Rafael Carbrerra Bello kicked off the 2012 season in style by winning the Dubai Desert Classic which of course is played each and every year on the famous Majilis Course at the Emirates Golf Club.
The famous Majilis Course – Home of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Sergio Garcia was also in sparkling form after a prolonged slump as he rattled off back to back wins in his homeland. First came the Castello Masters at his home course, Club de Campo del Mediterrano, which was followed by a win at the Andalucia Masters which was played at the world famous Valderrama; formerly a host of the Ryder Cup of course.
It seemed then that the 2012 Ryder Cup team would feature a strong Spanish contingent but following a ropey second half of the year for each of these three players, we may just have a Ryder Cup team featuring just the one, Captain Jose Maria Olazabal!
Valderrama, host course of the Andalucia Masters where Sergio secured his back-to-back triumph.
While the memory of Seve Ballesteros seemed to have been driving Messrs Garcia, Quiros and Cabrera Bello on towards the end of last year and the start of 2012, the Spaniards have suffered such a drop in form that now only Sergio Garcia will qualify for the team as it stands and his chances of playing in Chicago in September are hanging by a thread!
Although not certainties, the likes of Francesco Molinari and Paul Lawrie have all but secured their places on the team while Martin Kaymer from Germany and Peter Hanson from Sweden are both in better positions to gain automatic qualification over the next few weeks than the boys from Spain. This leaves the Spanish contingent needing to impress in upcoming events to be sure of making it to Medinah.
Dove Mountain, home of the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship.
But surely Ole will go for a Spaniard as one of his wildcard picks I hear you say? Well…considering the current form – remember the Ryder Cup is only weeks away – of a host of players on the European Tour it is hard to imagine that national ties will be enough for Messrs Garcia, Quiros and Cabrera Bello to secure a place on the team.
Ian Poulter is playing steadily and of course has an excellent matchplay record, having won both the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain in Arizona and the 2011 Volvo World Matchplay Championship at Finca Cortesin in Spain, not to mention his excellent Ryder Cup record. The big hitting Belgian, Nicolas Colsaerts is also bang in form and like Poulter has won the World Matchplay at Finca Cortesin.
Finca Cortesin, where Colsaerts secured a win in the World Match Play Final over G-Mac.
This week’s Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio and the final major of 2012, The PGA Championship, at Kiawah Island have suddenly become a whole lot more important for various players from each side of the Atlantic. With so many Ryder Cup qualification points up for grabs any of the Spaniards could make the team by the skin of their teeth but the same is true for others who have not yet qualified. Let’s hope at least one of them, ideally European talisman Garcia, will play well enough to take the decision out of Olazabal’s hands and restore a bit of pride in Spanish golf.
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