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Paul McGinley fears for Ryder Cup place

Paul McGinley admits he is looking over his shoulder as the race for Ryder Cup berths gathers momentum at the Irish Open, which begins Thursday.

McGinley has been one of Europe's stars in the last two Ryder Cups, holing the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002 and claiming 2 1/2 points out of a possible three in the rout at Oakland Hills in 2004.

After winning the Volvo Masters at the end of last season, the 39-year-old looked to be a lock for the European side for September's clash at the K Club in his native Dublin. But McGinley has suffered an untimely slump.

McGinley still occupies an automatic qualifying place but admitted a run of four consecutive missed cuts has given him cause for concern.

"Of course I'm nervy, very," McGinley said Wednesday. "I've missed four cuts in a row. I have a lot of respect for the players behind me in the ranking tables and I'm looking over my shoulder, to be quite honest.

"I've got to play better, there's no two ways about it. The job's not done. I've always said I had to play well this year to do it."

Missing the cut last week at least allowed West Ham fan McGinley to travel to Cardiff, Wales and watch the FA Cup final. But even that ended in disappointment with the Hammers' loss to Liverpool on penalty kicks.

McGinley is not the only big name uncertain of his place on captain's Ian Woosnam's team, with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington all outside automatic spots.

Two weeks ago, Woosnam stressed that those players needed to spend more time in Europe rather than the United States to try to qualify - or increase their chances of receiving a wild card.

Harrington seems to have taken that on board by adding the French Open in June to his schedule. Woosnam welcomed the news.

"Padraig has obviously realized he's got to get a few points," Woosnam said. "I want to get the players who have played in the Ryder Cup before automatically in. I don't want to be particularly left with having to pick some of the top players."

In contrast, Westwood said last week he would not be changing his schedule for one tournament, a stance which is unlikely to have impressed the captain.

"That's fair enough," Woosnam said. "He has an opinion and if he doesn't qualify for the Ryder Cup I can't do anything about that."

Another member of the 2004 team not in the qualifying positions is Darren Clarke. The Ulsterman admits he cannot be certain of playing even if he does qualify.

His wife, Heather, is seriously ill as she continues her battle against cancer. Clarke insists he would have no qualms about telling Woosnam he was not capable of playing.

"Of course I would love to be a part of it again," said Clarke, who faded to 11th in last week's British Masters after a closing 76. "But if I don't because of circumstances you're aware of, then so be it.

"Even if I made the team or was picked, I still don't know if I would be able to play or not until a week, two weeks before. It isn't really high on my priorities."



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