It’s off to the balmy shores of… uh, Sweden, this week where the race for European places on the Ryder Cup team continues apace at the SAS Masters. Well I say that, but most of the main contenders for wild card places, and even some of the boys just on the edge of qualification have chosen to skip this week in a hope to be fresh for the last two events. In fact, not one of the men in the current automatic qualifying places are here, mainly due to the tough recent schedule of the Open and USPGA within just a few weeks, the lone exception – Swede Robert Karlsson. This may leave the door open for a few guys to slip up the inside in a reduced strength field.
Notable absentees in the wild card race include Colin Montgomerie who is taking some time out to get out of his awful slump and come back fresh in a last ditch attempt to show he’s worth a wild-card later. Darren Clarke has also passed up this opportunity to show some form when a run out here may have been a real chance to shine. The big battles will be in the next fortnight it seems but who can gain an early advantage this week?
I admire this guy’s honesty, he knows his place in the pecking order and is well aware of what its going to take for him to be at Valhalla.
“Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Paul Casey will deserve to get the wild-cards before me. Montgomerie’s statistics show that he is different class when it comes to Ryder Cup and Clarke and Casey have so much more experience than me. I wouldn’t expect a pick even if I finished 11th on the table.”
Refreshing realism from a man who knows where he stands; right at the back of the queue. With not even the precariously positioned Søren Hansen and Oliver Wilson here this week, he could leapfrog them both here and steal a March going into the last two events.
Odds – 20-1
On the periphery of people’s wild card thinking just now, but a win here would throw him right into the mixer, even propelling him towards a real chance of automatic qualification; He'd be just £20,000 off Hansen. Some encouraging recent signs make me think he could be a real dark horse and Nick Faldo would love to have his protégé there. In a reduced field he’ll fancy his chances and was the runner-up here last year so he likes this tournament. He’s the one I’d be betting on this week.
Odds – 40 - 1
Not a European but a yank with a wild card to play for. DJ has accepted an invitation to play here this week and what better way is there to stake a claim for a wild card than by coming over and bashing some Europeans. “If he can beat them over there, he can beat them over ‘ere in the Ryder Cup”, Mr Azinger will be thinking, though it could backfire if he struggles. Trahan finished 11th in the American table and he will be hoping his European excursion this week will bring him extra merit points. Kudos to DJ for a strategy which is not often used by the stay at home Americans.
Odds – 25-1, 33-1 still available.
Incidentally one of the big names in the Ryder Race who is not in Sweden is playing this week. Paul Casey is teeing off at the Wyndham Championship over on the PGA Tour, where qualification points are not available for the European Rankings race which is still his only real hope of qualifying automatically. However, it has saved him the tiring journey from America and a big performance there will work for him in the same way as it would for DJ and his wild card chances would go from good to extremely likely. Not the biggest week to come in terms of the Ryder race, but it could create some big stories.