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Ryder Cup points chase moves to Holland

The battle for Ryder Cup places hots up at the Dutch Open this week with four players trying to steal a march on each other in the battle to appear at Oakland Hills.

Ryder Cup selection ends on August 29 and three Britons, David Howell, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, and Irishman Paul McGinley, have opted to play in Hilversum instead of resting before next week's U.S. PGA Championship.

Poulter, who missed out by just one place in the 2001 Ryder Cup race, is determined to make it this time and tees up on Thursday knowing a victory in the Netherlands should put him on the plane to the U.S.

Lying ninth of the 10 automatic qualifiers in the combined European Ryder Cup table, the flamboyant Englishman is also chasing an NEC World Golf Championship place.

"I will make that plane to Detroit (for the Ryder Cup)," Poulter said on Wednesday.

"This week was too important to miss because there's a lot resting on it, particularly getting into the WGC (NEC).

"A win and it's all done and dusted."

All four players in the Cup race are aiming for appearances in the NEC event to enhance their position, with qualification for the WGC tournament at Firestone having two cut-off points.

A top-50 spot in the world rankings at the end of this week gets them into the event in a fortnight's time and if they are in the top 50 after next week's PGA Championship they also get in.

Howell, who at eighth is the best-placed player in the Ryder Cup rankings in Hilversum, is relishing the fight.

"I've got myself into position as it stands now and I'm doing everything I can to try to make it," said Howell.

"Last week I finished eighth even though I hit the ball atrociously for three days after a good start.

"When you start getting tired mentally you can lose the will to fight and it just goes to show that mentally I was still fighting."

To spice up the week, Howell plays the first two rounds with 15th-placed McDowell, while Poulter is alongside McGinley. The Irishman who holed the winning putt in the 2002 Ryder Cup lies 16th in the current table.

Last year's Dutch Open winner Maarten Lafeber, who lies 18th, is hopeful of another good showing to boost his own Ryder Cup bid.

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