Drive to Oakland Hills Continues at Nissan

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Bernhard Langer now plays the majority of his golf in the United States, which could make it difficult for him to evaluate, first hand, the players who will comprise his European Ryder Cup team.
 
This week, however, many of those potential team members will join their captain on American soil.
 
Langer, Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Fredrik Jacobson, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Niclas Fasth and Jesper Parnevik are all in Pacific Palisades, Calif., for the Nissan Open.
 
And unlike in past campaigns, their PGA Tour play will go a long way towards their inclusion in the 35th Ryder Cup Matches.
 
For the first time, qualification for the European Ryder Cup team can be determined in two ways.
 
Players can qualify by finishing in the top 5 on the World Points List, which awards points based on finishes in worldwide events ' not just on the European Tour ' from Sept. 4, 2003 to Aug. 23, 2004.
 
They can also do so by being among the top 5 finishers, who did not make it via the world list, on the European Points List. This list is based on money earned in European Tour events from Sept. 4, 2003 to Aug. 29, 2004.
 
Click for the latest Ryder Cup standings
 
For now, Westwood, Clarke and Jacobsen are on the inside; Bjorn, Garcia, Parnevik and Fasth have a little ways to go, and plenty to time to get there.
 
The Ryder Cup is slated to be contested Sept. 17-19 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield, Mich.
 
United States captain Hal Sutton will also get a sneak peak at players trying to make his team.
 
With the top 10 at the conclusion of the PGA Championship getting an automatic berth onto the U.S. team, 18 of the top 25 players in the standings are in this week's field.
 
That includes Tiger Woods.
 
The worlds No. 1 has played this tournament ' six times as a professional ' more than any other PGA Tour event without winning. He closed with a 65 last year to tie for fifth.
 
Woods grew up in the greater Los Angeles area, and competed in his first tour event at Riviera Country Club in 1992. He missed the cut that year, and did the same in 93. Hes since never finished outside of the top 20, while posting a pair of runner-up finishes.
 
His closest chance to victory came in 1998, when he lost to Billy Mayfair in a playoff at Valencia Country Club.
 
Ive come close a couple of times, Woods said. I've got a lot of great memories here.
 
As does Mike Weir.
 
Weir defeated Charles Howell III in a playoff to claim his second title of the 2003 season. He went on to win the Masters and nearly $5 million.
 
Howell didnt exactly fall apart after that defeat ' collecting another runner-up finish, at the Tour Championship, to go along with four other top-10 finishes ' but he hasnt yet come that close to earning his second tour title.
 
The promising 24-year-old has yet to break the top 20 in five starts this season.
 
This is the 78th playing of what was, for most of its existence, known as the Los Angeles Open.
 
Its the 42nd time that Riviera has hosted the tournament. The par-71 course, dubbed Hogans Alley after three-time winner Ben Hogan, has been lengthened to 7,222 yards ' up 48 yards from a year ago.
 
The purse has also been increased by $300,000 to $4.8 million; the winner will net $864,000.
 
The field includes Buick Invitational winner John Daly, Vijay Singh, who had his streak of 12 consecutive top-10 finishes snapped when he missed the cut last week in La Jolla, British Open champion Ben Curtis, PGA champion Shaun Micheel, Chad Campbell, FBR Open winner Jonathan Kaye and David Toms, who is scheduled to make his first start in two months after hand surgery.
 
Last years result was no anomaly. There have been three playoffs in the last six Nissan Opens. The other three tournaments during that span have been determined by a total of four strokes.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Nissan Open