Ryder Cup race begins

The race could not be beginning in a more picturesque setting than Crans Montana

Ryder Cup race begins

High in the Swiss Alps, the race to Medinah gets underway this week as the year-long European Ryder Cup qualification process begins.

The race to qualify for José Maria Olazábal’s Ryder Cup team begins in one of The European Tour’s most spectacular destinations, the breath-taking Crans-sur-Sierre, at this week’s Omega European Masters.

The traditional starting point for Ryder Cup qualification, the Omega European Masters, co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, will host a powerful field that includes six members of last year’s winning Team – Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, the Molinari brothers, Lee Westwood and this week’s defending champion, Miguel Angel Jiménez.

Open Champion Darren Clarke, and the man he succeeded in lifting the Claret Jug, Louis Oosthuizen, will add to the major presence on the stunning fairways of Crans, where Olazábal, a former champion, will be in attendance.

The tournament signals the beginning of Olazábal’s captaincy and a journey that will lead him and his final 12-man Team to Medinah Country Club in Chicgao, Illinois, to defend The Ryder Cup Trophy Europe reclaimed at Celtic Manor last year.

Olazábal said: “You only have to look at how strong the field is this week to see how important the tournament is to the players. I’m excited that the qualification period is starting and it will be interesting to see how the players perform and how it develops over the next year.

“It is going to be very difficult to make the Team, to be one of the top five on the European Points List or the World Points List is going to be tough.

“The players will have to play really well to make it and I am sure they are preparing themselves to peak at the right times so that we can have the best chance to win.

“We know that we will have a tough battle in Chicago next year, but if the boys keep on playing the way that they have been for the last couple of years then I think we will have a good chance.”

It will certainly be an intriguing campaign with so many European Members of the Tour winning consistently at golf’s elite level.

Can the likes of Clarke, last week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles winner Thomas Björn, or Sergio Garcia maintain their comebacks to the top of the world order and return to Ryder Cup action on the fairways having Vice-Captained Colin Montgomerie in Wales last year?

Or will The European Tour’s new generation, led by players such as Kaymer, McIlroy, Matteo Manassero, Oliver Fisher, Alex Noren and Alvaro Quiros see Europe’s Team further evolve during what is a golden age for its main contenders?

The Team will certainly not be decided on Sunday, but the Omega European Masters will provide someone the perfect start in the race to book a seat on the plane to Chicago next September.