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Garcia aiming for automatic Ryder selection

Sergio Garcia is determined to play himself on to Bernhard Langer's European Ryder Cup team for next year, rather than rely on a wildcard selection for the second time in a row.

The Spaniard, chosen as one of Sam Torrance's two Ryder Cup picks for The Belfry last year, spends most of the year competing in the United States and plans to qualify either through world ranking or the European order of merit.

"I would definitely like to make it easier for Bernhard and I am going to give it (automatic qualifying) my best shot," Garcia said as he prepared for this week's European Masters, the first counting event for 2004 European Ryder Cup points.

"It is a matter of pride to qualify by right, because you never know what's going to happen.

"Nobody is sure of a pick, so you try to play some good golf to get into the team and, if some of the biggest players make it by themselves, it makes it a little easier for the captain to have some other choices."

Garcia has two chances of qualifying: either by being in the top five in a mini world ranking table, purely for European players, or by finishing in the top five in the year-long European Ryder Cup points table, which starts this week.

Although the Spaniard begins his European campaign this week in his new home town of Crans, he will play only two more Ryder Cup counting events this year, the WGC-American Express Championship and the season-ending Volvo Masters.

"If I play well, I have enough chances to get myself in, either by the order of merit (European table) or the world ranking," said the 23-year-old.

"But I think the new system which enables us to earn points on a world ranking is great, because for us playing in the U.S., it makes it easier and we now don't have to rely on a pick.

"I think it's going to get us the best team to try to beat the Americans."

Players like Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, who all lie in the world's top 20, will have to start from scratch on the new European world rankings.

Seven-times European number one Colin Montgomerie also endorsed the new Ryder Cup selection system on Wednesday. Like Garcia, he will target both qualifying routes.

"Given my international play, I would expect to qualify on both points tables," said Montgomerie, who is bidding for a seventh Ryder Cup appearance next year at Oakland Hills, Michigan.

"But there is always the risk that experienced Ryder Cup players like myself Clarke, Harrington and (Thomas) Bjorn might not be in either top five, so you would then have two picks from four of us.

"The only non-risk system is the one I've advocated for many years, which is 12 picks. There's your best team."

Montgomerie, winner of the Crans event in 1996, added that Langer would have to think very carefully about his vice-captain for next year's Ryder Cup, following the German's comments last week that he might travel to Oakland Hills as a player.

Langer said in Munich he had not ruled anything out and would consider playing for Europe if his form was good enough.

"It could be one month or three weeks before, and then we might lose our captain," said Montgomerie. "Surely we couldn't leave it that late.

"He (Langer) has to be very careful, if he is close to qualifying, who he chooses as his vice-captain as that guy will have to take over."

Apart from Montgomerie and Garcia, other favourites for this week's title in Crans include world number two Ernie Els and defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden.


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