This weeks World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational could go a long way in determining who makes up the European team that will take on the U.S. at Oakland Hills Sept. 17-19.
Players have two ways of qualifying for the European squad. The top 5 players on the World Points List as of Monday, Aug. 23 will automatically qualify, as will the top 5 not otherwise qualified from the Ryder Cup Points List as of Sunday, Aug. 29.
The World Points List is based on world ranking points awarded since Sept. 4, 2003. The Ryder Cup Points List is akin to a money list, where one euro earned in a European Tour-sanctioned event (since Sept. 4, 2003) equals one point.
Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiminez and Lee Westwood are currently the top five players on the World Points List; all are in the field this week.
If those five maintain their positions, Thomas Levet, Paul Casey, David Howell, Ian Poulter and Paul McGinley would be the top five players on the Ryder Cup Points List; Howell and Poulter are the only ones not in attendance.
Other Europeans in need of a good week in this limited field include: Fredrik Jacobson (sixth World List) and Luke Donald (10th World List).
Thomas Bjorn, Colin Montgomerie and Jesper Parnevik are also in the field, but are really looking to try and impress European captain Bernhard Langer, who is also playing. Langer will make his two captains selections after the top 10 players qualify.
It's up to Bernhard to see whether he's looking for experience or he's looking for players that are particularly on form at the time or whatever the case may be, Montgomerie said at the PGA Championship, where he finished 70th.
I have not just one or two or three guys who should come into the equation, Langer said. There's really probably eight of them who, maybe even more than eight, who have a right to be picked or should be certainly considered, and I understand that. It's going to be a tough one.
Langer addressed the media last week at Whistling Straits and offered some insight to his selection process.
Obviously I need someone who can perform under the most extreme pressure, because that's what Ryder Cup is; it's not a local club championship or anything, as you all know. There's more pressure in that event than any other event, I would think, he said.
I know the greens there at Detroit there are extremely tough ' very, very difficult. So, ideally, you would like to have someone who has a good short game, yet at the same time if the fairways are narrow and the rough is up, you need someone who can hit it straight, as well.
So you need all that. On the other hand, if I have two or three players who are the same and one has a lot of experience and one doesn't, I'd probably prefer the guy who has experience. So there's various things I need to look at. It's not going to be easy.
The NEC Invitational is the second of the three individual WGC events. Tiger Woods won the Accenture Match Play Championship for his only victory of the season. Hes also the defending champion of next months American Express Championship.
Woods has won eight of the 14 WGC tournaments hes entered, three of which have come at the NEC. His trio of NEC titles came from 1999-2001. Hes finished fourth each of the last two years.
Once again, the tournament will be contested at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Firestone hosted the event when it was known as the World Series of Golf, from 1976-98. It was also the host each of the first three years after it became affiliated with the WGC. It moved to Sahalle Country Club in 2002, only to return to Firestone last year.
Clarke was the champion a year ago, shooting 12-under 268 to win by four over Jonathan Kaye.
The field is comprised of playing members from the most recent Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams, the top 50 from the Official World Golf Ranking, and winners of selected worldwide events.