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Final race for Ryder Cup berths

Mark James and Ben Crenshaw are on a double mission in Chicago this week.

As well as playing in the United States PGA championship at Medinah, the two will be studying the form of others as the race for places in the Ryder Cup reaches crunch time.

The final major of the season is also the final qualifying event for the American team and the penultimate counting tournament for Europe.

Captains Crenshaw and James need to have packed calculators as well as golf clubs.

A total of 29 Americans are in contention for the 10 automatic spots, with only five certain of their places.

That mightily impressive quintet are David Duval and Tiger Woods, the world's top two, US Open champion Payne Stewart, 1997 PGA champion Davis Love and 1998 Open and Masters champion Mark O'Meara.

Hal Sutton and Justin Leonard are odds-on to join them, but Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Jeff Maggert are under pressure in eighth, ninth and 10th places.

Tom Lehman, Open champion three years ago, is kicking himself that he still has some work to do to avoid relying on one of Crenshaw's two wild cards.

Lehman led the Buick Open by four strokes with a round to play in Michigan this weekend, but allowed Tom Pernice to overtake him and his fourth runners-up finish of the season leaves him 11th in the points table. A win would have lifted him to eighth.

The other leading candidates for wild cards are Fred Couples and Lee Janzen in 17th and 23rd spots respectively. To climb into the top 10 Couples has to finish fourth on Sunday and Janzen has to win.

After Colin Montgomerie's brilliant nine-stroke victory in the Scandinavian Masters in Sweden yesterday, seven Europeans look certain to be on board Concorde when it takes the European side to Boston to defend the trophy next month.

They are Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Open champion Paul Lawrie, Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, Swede Jarmo Sandelin and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Open runner-up Jean Van de Velde is eighth and has a lead of nearly £40,000 over ninth-placed Swede Robert Karlsson, while closely behind come Scot Andrew Coltart in the hot seat of 10th, then Bernhard Langer, teenager Sergio Garcia and James himself, who is expected to hand the captaincy to Sam Torrance if he does qualify.

Jesper Parnevik finished a distant second to Montgomerie in Malmo and that took him to 18th in the points standings.

Parnevik, Langer and Garcia appear the names at the top of James's wild card list, but like Crenshaw he has only two to hand out and both Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam are hoping a return to form at this late hour will being them into contention as well.

Faldo, Woosnam, Langer and Garcia are all in the entry list for next week's BMW International in Munich, the final sprint for spots.

But it is a journey they can avoid by shining this week in Chicago.