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Scots struggling in Ryder Cup race

With the international golf season about to touch base in Britain - the £1million Benson and Hedges International Open starts at the Belfry on Thursday - it comes as something of a shock to discover that only one resident of Scotland is currently in pole position to qualify for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

That man, of course, is Sweden’s Pierre Fulke, the leader in the standings, who bought a house at Gleneagles after his victory in the Scottish PGA Championship last summer. As far as the natives are concerned, Colin Montgomerie, 12th, Dean Robertson, 15th, Andrew Coltart, 17th, Paul Lawrie, 18th, and Gary Orr, 19th, all have work to do if they want to earn their way into Sam Torrance’s plans as part of the top-ten automatic places.

The good news is that nearly 11 million points towards qualification are available this month, with the bulk on offer in the UK. Apart from the B&H this week, the Volvo PGA and the British Masters are also set to play a significant part.

Although there’s a lot to play for, it’s clear that seven of the top ten - Fulke, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia - are almost certain to face the US in September.

This leaves just five spots up for grabs. As a Ryder Cup side without Monty is impossible to imagine and Swede Jesper Parnevik is the favourite to receive one of two wild cards, this effectively means around a dozen candidates are chasing just three places.

The US-based Bernhard Langer, 13th, will be a strong candidate to fill one berth after playing superbly in the Players Championship and the Masters. But the German, who is hoping to make his tenth appearance in the match, needs to emulate the example of Olazabal, winner of the French Open on Sunday, and make the most of his rare appearances in Europe. Langer will tee up this month at the B&H, the Deutsche Bank and the Volvo PGA at Wentworth.

Olazabal has a similar schedule and while he says the Ryder Cup isn’t the be-all and end-all, he’d like to make it into the side on his own merits. "The majors count for Ryder Cup points, so I have to play well in those tournaments and I’ll be fine for automatic selection," he said.

Given the intensity of competition, the challenge facing Coltart, Orr, Lawrie and Robertson is clear. Over the next four months, the Scots need to win at least once and perform to a consistently high standard the rest of the time if they want to make more than a solitary appearance at the Belfry in 2001.


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