The Race is on: 100 days to Medinah
With exactly 100 days to go until the first ball is struck in The 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, the race to qualify for both teams is entering the final stretch. Which 12 players will represent Europe under Captain José María Olazábal? That's a developing story.
Just nine weeks remain to earn a place on José María Olazábal's European team and secure a seat on the plane bound for Chicago, and last week's US Open gave another indication that the biennial match between Europe and the United States is going to be as close as ever.
While Rory McIlroy, who tops the qualification table, missed the cut and Paul Lawrie do not play, the season's second Major Championship consolidated the positions of Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose; while Nicolas Colsaerts picked up some valuable points in his bid to become the first Belgian to play in The Ryder Cup.
McDowell, the man who secured the winning point at The Celtic Manor Resort two years ago, cemented his place with his magnificent performance at the Olympic Club in San Francisco when he finished just one stroke shy of a play-off with champion Webb Simpson, moving up to fourth in the European Points List.
Rose, looking to make a return to The Ryder Cup fold after his debut at Valhalla in 2008, climbed to second in the European Points List by overtaking Lawrie with a joint 25th place finish and Kaymer, joint 15th in San Francisco at the weekend, occupies the fifth and last automatic spot from the European Points List.
World Number One Luke Donald, who like McIlroy missed the cut last week, still leads the World Points List ahead of Westwood, one of three Europeans to finish in the top ten at the Olympic Club. Peter Hanson, Sergio Garcia and Colsaerts are also currently in line for automatic selection.
As things stand that would leave Colsaerts as the only rookie among the ten qualifiers but there is plenty of golf to be played between now and the team announcement at the conclusion of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on August 26.
Exactly how many points might be needed is difficult to judge, particularly as the points lists have been switched this year and there is one more automatic place available, but two years ago the fifth placed player in the European Points List was Ian Poulter with 2,238,874, and tenth on the World Points List was Francesco Molinari on 181 points. Currently McIlroy is the only player to have surpassed Poulter's European Points tally of 2010, while McIlroy, Donald, Westwood, Rose and McDowell have already acquired more than 200 World Points.
Two years ago only six of the nine players within the automatic qualification places after the US Open went on to represent Europe at the Celtic Manor Resort.
Who from the current ten keep their place remains to be seen and with a huge run of events coming up in Europe and two Major Championships and one World Golf Championship event still to be contested over the next two months there is everything to play for.
While Europe have the top three players in the world, the last three Majors have now gone in favour of Americans and US Open Champion Simpson looks set to make his Ryder Cup debut as he surged into third place in their qualifying list, knocking US PGA Champion Keegan Bradley out of the eight automatic spots, while Jason Dufner went top by overtaking Masters Champion Bubba Watson.
Like Olazábal Davis Love III, the United States Captain, is certainly going to have plenty to think about over the next few weeks.
"It's nice to see a lot of our guys playing well and also to see Graeme back on form among the Europeans," said Love III at the Olympic Club. "He is so much fun to be around and watch play and he seems to like this tournament and tough conditions. But our guys have been playing very well over here and that's been fun to watch. It was great to see Dustin win last week and come back after being hurt with a win again. It seems like every week there is someone new. Week after week after week the Americans are playing well. They are making the picks decision hard on me."
The race to play their way onto the US team has even less time to run with the US PGA Championship the final week for the Americans to stake their place, and Love III is well aware how quickly that week will come.
"The year is has gone by very quickly and before you know it we will be there," he said. "The US PGA Championship is going to be a huge week as the guys will be making the team that week. Then we'll have eight and I'll have a few weeks to stew on picking four, and phoning a bunch of guys to say they didn't make the team which won't be fun, and then we will be making pairings and playing the match. It is going to happen extremely fast.
"My wife and I have tried to lay the groundwork so we are ready. Hopefully I am going to play my way into the FedEx and be busy so I need to get everything done now."