Europeans ready as final preparations continue
Just days remain until José María Olazábal leads his 12 men into action at Medinah Country Club and while seven members of the European Team will be resting up this week, the competitive preparations continue for five of his charges.
After two years of fervent build-up following the engrossing encounter that unfolded at The Celtic Manor Resort in 2010, the stage is set in the American Midwest for the 39th playing of the biennial contest from September 28-30.
Last week saw the final chance for preparations on the European side of the Atlantic as the Royal Park I Roveri once again hosted the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi with three of Olazábal's side in attendance just outside of Turin.
While Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, who narrowly missed out on Ryder Cup qualification, stormed to a two shot victory in Italy, there were yet more encouraging performances by Nicolas Colsaerts, Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari.
Germany’s Kaymer, who a week previously had showed signs of rejuvenation with a tied 21st place finish at the KLM Open as team-mate Peter Hanson claimed a dramatic triumph in the Netherlands, continued his welcome resurgence in form to finish tied fifth after playing the last 54 holes in 16 under par.
And looking full of self-assurance ahead of his Ryder Cup bow in Medinah, Belgium’s Colsaerts made it two top ten finishes in succession after adding a tied fifth finish to his tied eighth place at Hilversumsche two weeks ago.
Molinari, meanwhile, showed grit and character to bounce back from a disappointing third round 76 with a seven under par 65 on Sunday to climb into a share of 46th place in Turin. One of the most consistent performers on Tour over the last few years, the Italian is riding high in third place in The Race to Dubai currently and looking like a valuable European asset ahead of his second Ryder Cup appearance at Medinah.
Indeed, eight of the European 12 have notched up top ten finishes over the last three weeks since the qualification race ended – included two wins for McIlroy and one for Hanson – underlining the team’s collective form heading to Medinah.
This week, while seven members of Team Europe continue to fine tune their games in private, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood will take to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, for the final episode of the US PGA Tour’s FedExCup play-off series in America.
A great deal of focus will be on 23 year old McIlroy, as the Northern Irishman heads into the Tour Championship in first place in the Play-Off Points ahead of Tiger Woods, looking to chase down the $10 million bonus in Georgia this weekend.
Having won three times in his last four starts, including his record-breaking romp to the US PGA Championship in August, McIlroy could claim the top prize and with it inflict another blow upon the Americans by seizing their biggest prize from under the noses of Team US – all 12 of whom are in the field for the closing instalment of the US season proper.
McIlroy will secure the $10 million should he win the Tour Championship, finish ahead of the other four men in the top five spots in the rankings in Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, while the Ulsterman can finish as low as 29th and still have a mathematical chance of winning.
There are huge monetary rewards on offer in the southern state this week, but all eyes will still be firmly fixed on one week hence, and on Medinah, when Europe’s crusade to retain the priceless Samuel Ryder Trophy will begin.