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Key weeks ahead for Ryder Cup hopefuls

European captain Sam Torrance, while encouraged by much of what he saw during last week's British Open, still faces a selection nightmare ahead of this September's Ryder Cup at The Belfry.

Although eight Europeans finished in the top 12 at the British Open, several of Torrance's key players have not yet guaranteed a spot in the Ryder Cup.

Torrance has only two wild-card choices to complete his team of 12, with the rest automatically coming from the top 10 on the European Ryder Cup standings.

The problem for Torrance is that Welshman Ian Woosnam, Germany's Bernhard Langer, Spaniards Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez and Swede Jesper Parnevik are all currently outside that top 10 -- and all of them have displayed good form in recent weeks.

Furthermore, Torrance will certainly want to pick all six to take on the might of the U.S. in the 34th Ryder Cup matches, which start on September 28.

The good news for the Scot is that eight events remain before he has to make his final selection, and three of those -- this week's Dutch Open and the Scandinavian Masters in Europe and the U.S. PGA championship at Atlanta -- are all lucrative events in terms of Ryder Cup points.

Torrance would much prefer it if both Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie were in better form at present.

Westwood has been tinkering with his swing over the past few weeks and has missed three cuts in his last four tournaments.

Despite Montgomerie's success in the Irish Open earlier this month and his opening rounds of 65 and 70 at the British Open, Torrance will be concerned at his state of mind.

Montgomerie faded into joint 13th place at Lytham over the weekend, despite his promising start, and both his confidence and his putting will need to improve greatly if he is to be a real factor at The Belfry.

The big European winner at Lytham on Sunday was Sweden's fast-finishing Niclas Fasth, who clinched his Ryder Cup place with a closing round of 67 to finish second in the British Open, three shots behind winner David Duval.

"I've not thought about the Ryder Cup before this," the 29-year-old Swede later admitted.

Fellow Swede Pierre Fulke is also certain of a Ryder Cup spot, following his surprise second-place finish to Steve Stricker in the World Match Play Championship in Australia this January.

However his potential Ryder Cup teammates will not have been encouraged by his form for the rest of the year.

Going into last week's British Open, Fulke missed three cuts and finished outside the top 60 in six tournaments in a row. He then crashed down the leaderboard at Royal Lytham with a disappointing final round of 83.

Torrance certainly needs Woosnam, Langer, Garcia and Parnevik at The Belfry, and probably also Jimenez and Olazabal.

Woosnam would have already qualified for the Ryder Cup had it not been for his unfortunate two-shot penalty for carrying an extra club on the last day of the British Open.

Torrance can only hope that these six key players make the most of the few qualifying tournaments left to them before September, starting from this Thursday in the Dutch Open at Noordwijkse Golf Club.


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