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James half way to Ryder Cup team

Ryder Cup captain Mark James believes he can now pencil in half of his side for the clash with America in Boston in September.

James reckons that Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal -all members of the team which won at Valderrama two years ago -and uncapped pair Jarmo Sandelin and Miguel Angel Jimenez have probably already done enough to earn places on board Concorde.

"I would expect them to make it now, but there are a heck of a lot fighting for the other four automatic places," said James, whose first big decision comes when he has to name two wild cards to complete the line-up in late August.

There is still around £16million of prize money to play for and the first £1.3million of that is at stake in the Volvo PGA championship which started at Wentworth on Friday.

Montgomerie defends the title against a field which includes every candidate for a cup spot - and South African star Ernie Els, whose wife Liezl gave birth to their first child on Wednesday afternoon.

The tournament provides another opportunity for the likes of English quartet David Howell, Steve Webster, John Bickerton and Van Phillips, Scots Dean Robertson and Paul Lawrie, Welshman Phil Price and Irish World Cup winners Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley to move closer to cup debuts.

They are all among the leading 30 players in the table who have now all been measured up for team uniforms and the £216,000 first prize on Monday would make all of them believe that they will be wearing the clothes soon.

Nick Faldo's measurements are well known, of course, but he is not in the 30 and only if he can build on his seventh place finish in the Benson and Hedges International two weeks ago will the most capped player in cup history be part of James's team.

At least Faldo, winner of six majors, will have another chance at the US Open next month.

Ian Woosnam, currently 28th in the table, has to win on Monday to gain a place in the second major of the season, having failed to meet any of the other exemption categories.

James is offering no clues as to whom he might have as his wild cards.

Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out - including on the question of 19-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

A professional for only a month, Garcia plays his fourth event for money this weekend, but having already come third in the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas, his Ryder Cup chances are already being discussed.

James himself made the 1977 Ryder Cup side in only his second season as a professional and says that when it comes to decide on Garcia he will be thinking simply about whether he is good enough, not whether he is old enough.

Character will also play a part.

"The 12 guys have to get on and be ready to play with anyone if form changes," adds James.

Earlier this season it looked as if James might also have to make a decision on whether he should play, but he teed off today on a run of three successive missed cuts.

"Four would be a record for me, so I'm looking forward to coming down the stretch with that on my mind," he joked.

Sporting Life