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Ryder Cup players warm up at Mercedes-Benz Championship

Four of Europe’s Ryder Cup team will be using this week’s Mercedes-Benz Championship in Germany as a final warm-up for next week’s match against the United States.

Denmark’s Soren Hansen and Briton Graeme McDowell, both making their Cup debuts at Valhalla, Kentucky, will tune up over a Gut Larchenhof course near Cologne on which they have excelled in the past.

Hansen, only the second Dane to play Ryder Cup after Thomas Bjorn, defends the title he won by four strokes last year.

McDowell led the 2004 version of the tournament, when it was the German Masters, going into the final round before being overtaken by Ireland’s now triple major champion Padraig Harrington.

“Obviously, I can’t wait to get to Valhalla, but the Mercedes-Benz Championship is a huge tournament this week and I am really looking forward to getting back in action after a couple of weeks off and warming up for the Ryder Cup with a good performance here this week in Cologne,” McDowell told Reuters.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Swede Robert Karlsson make up the Cup quartet in the German event starting on Thursday.

Jimenez could have won last week’s European Masters but for a cold putter that left him tied for third, only a stroke away from the playoff pair of winner Jean-Francois Lucquin of France and British teenager Rory McIlroy.

Karlsson had been one of two minor fitness worries for captain Nick Faldo. The Swede, a successful Cup debutant in 2006, has recovered for Cologne after resting a painful neck.

“Robert’s absolutely perfectly fine,” Karlsson’s manager Johan Elliot told Reuters.

“There never was any real trouble and he has no problems over being fit for this week—or next week.”

Briton Lee Westwood pulled out of last week’s tournament and this week’s event with tonsillitis, but his management company has said he will have recovered by the time he joins up with the team.

Europe’s other seven team members, Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Oliver Wilson and wild-cards Ian Poulter and Paul Casey all take this week off.

The Cologne event, with an elite field of 78 either tour winners, players from the world’s top 75 or invitees, sees several participants flying in from the United States.

These include Champions Tour winner Bernhard Langer, at 51 bidding to be the European Tour’s oldest title-holder. Langer has won this tournament, in its various guises, four times.

Another former winner, Retief Goosen of South Africa, is in the line-up, along with major champions Fred Couples and John Daly of the U.S., Australian Stuart Appleby and Swede Daniel Chopra.


September 10, 2008

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