Last chance for Ryder Cup qualification
Europe's Ryder Cup campaign has turned this week's BMW International Open into a tournament within a tournament, with at least 12 players sweating it out for a place in Bernhard Langer's team to take on the U.S.
Six players have already booked their berths for the match at Oakland Hills next month, and the Munich event is the last one to count before Langer's full line-up of 12 is decided on Sunday night.
Four players will automatically qualify via the European points table before Langer completes with two wildcard picks.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, Britons Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, and Thomas Levet of France have booked their places through the Ryder Cup world points standings or the European points table.
Levet, sixth in the European points standings going into this week's event, cannot be overtaken.
However, Britons Paul Casey (sixth in the European points table), David Howell (seventh), Ian Poulter (eighth) and Irishman Paul McGinley (ninth) could be under threat this week with their closest challengers all playing in Munich.
"It's sweaty palms time," said McGinley, who holed the winning putt for Europe in the 2002 Ryder Cup at the Belfry. "The pressure is on everyone this week.
"It will be as intense as what I felt when I stood over the deciding putt at the Belfry."
McGinley lies 45,392 points ahead of 10th-placed Jean-Francois Remesy, who is bidding to become the second Frenchman in Langer's team.
Remesy, in turn, is only 16,114 points ahead of Sweden's Joakim Haeggman while another Swede, Fredrik Jacobson, Britons Brian Davis and Graeme McDowell and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin are also in the hunt for late Ryder Cup spots.
After overcoming a wrist injury on his way to a tie for 17th at the U.S. PGA Championship two weeks ago, Remesy is refusing to pressurise himself this week by thinking only of a Ryder Cup debut.
"I watched players like Jerry Kelly during the PGA, putting so much pressure on themselves (that) they lost their chance," said Remesy.
"Before I won the French Open this year, I didn't even dream about a Ryder Cup place.
"I'll be trying 100 percent to win the BMW International and that will be it.
"But if I don't get in then, if I finish 11th in the table, there might be a chance of a wildcard.
"It all depends if Bernhard is looking for experience, current form, or whatever."
Britons Luke Donald and Colin Montgomerie are being widely tipped as Langer's likely captain's picks, however.
Montgomerie, 18th in the European points standings, cannot qualify autmatically and might need a good week to persuade Langer he should be selected.
The 41-year-old Scot will team up again this week with his former caddie Alastair McLean, who worked with him for all his seven successive European order of merit titles and at four Ryder Cups.
"Having Alastair back on the bag gives me confidence," said Montgomerie, a talismanic figure for Europe at the Belfry in 2002. "He was with me when I last won here in 1999.
"If I get in (the Ryder Cup team), he will be a bonus for the whole team."
Donald, who plays most of his golf on the U.S. PGA Tour, also needs a good week in Munich.
"I must have caught Bernhard's eye when I won the Scandinavian Masters and he's seen me play well in the States, so I'm obviously still in his eye," said the Englishman.
"But there are plenty of others in line for a pick, so I don't want to count any chickens before they're hatched."
Langer's countryman Alex Cejka is another in the shake-up for a wildcard pick this week at GolfClub Munchen Nord Eichenried, where 2000 European number one Westwood defends his title.
American John Daly, who was overlooked as a wildcard pick last week by U.S. captain Hal Sutton, is also in the Munich field.
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