Ticket to Ryde
Rob Lee reckons Nicolas Colsaerts and Ian Poulter are nailed on for spots in Europe's Ryder Cup team.
Last Updated: 28/08/12 9:50pm
I think Nicolas Colsaerts' participation in this month's Ryder Cup is set in stone, whether or not he qualifies by right.
The Belgian will get an automatic entry for the September showdown in Chicago at the expense of former world number one Martin Kaymer if he finishes first or second at this week's Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
But I reckon Colsaerts' name is already etched on Jose Maria Olazabal's team-sheet and I am sure he will be picked as a wildcard, alongside Ian Poulter, if he cannot break into the top 10 by Sunday night.
Medinah Country Club is a long course and one that the 29-year-old, who can hit the ball a fair old way, should relish, while we know he likes a bit of head-to-head combat as he won the Volvo World Matchplay in June.
Poulter is bulletproof, too. The Englishman was bumped down the standings by Sergio Garcia after the Spaniard won the Wyndham Championship on Monday and cannot now qualify by right.
But Poulter will definitely be named as a wildcard due to his good form at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, in which he finished tied for third, and because of how he performs at Ryder Cups.
The $64,000 dollar question is who would join Poulter in receiving a captain's pick if Colsaerts does what he needs to at Gleneagles and gets in the team automatically?
The fact that Kaymer, whose involvement in the Ryder Cup is hanging by a thread, is not playing at the Johnnie Walker suggests to me that he is not that bothered about being selected, so that might open up a spot for one of a host of players.
David Lynn and Rafael Cabrera-Bello could win in Scotland to earn a pick, as Edoardo Molinari did to get on the 2010 European team, while Ollie may also be tempted to choose fellow Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, though the Madrid-born star's putting game can be sporadic and that could count against him.
But if Olazabal is concerned about picking a rookie and opts to seek experience instead, then he would also have the option of Thomas Bjorn or Padraig Harrington.
Bjorn has been named as a vice-captain but I really think he would have a chance of playing if he won at Gleneagles for the second year running; he is grizzly, tough and no stranger to the Ryder Cup.
Harrington, however, has chosen to play at the Barclays instead of the Johnnie Walker and cannot now add to his points tally, so perhaps his mind is made up on his inclusion.
Jose Maria could yet have much to ponder...
Garcia will be sleeping a little easier having secured his Ryder Cup spot with that aforementioned victory in the States, his first PGA Tour win since 2008.
I have always been a massive fan of Garcia as he is such a talented player, but he had been in a malaise and seemed like he wasn't enjoying anything about being on a golf course. It was incredibly frustrating to watch, but in North Carolina last week he looked happy and played like a champ; if he can stay upbeat he is good enough to be the number one player in the world.
Sergio loves the Ryder Cup and I think the fear of missing out on that for a second successive time has really fired him up. I've seen some clips recently of his previous appearances in the event and when he sinks putts he is delighted, much like his fellow Spaniards Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros were.
I bet he cannot wait to fly to Medinah where he has some good memories, having gone toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods there in the 1999 PGA Championship, being pipped to the title by just one stroke.
Olazabal has also named three of his vice-captains with Bjorn joined by Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, men who are vastly experienced and may very well skipper Europe in the Ryder Cup themselves one day. Their nous could be critical.
I am not privy to who Ollie's fourth vice-captain is going be but I think his countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez has a big shout. He has not done well enough to earn a playing berth, but he is a Ryder Cup veteran having played in 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2010, as well as assisting Seve in 1997.
ROB'S SKY BET TIPS
Johnnie Walker Championship: Colsaerts is capable of winning the Johnnie Walker Championship but he has done a lot of travelling of late, and will have to readjust from the boiling weather at Wyndham to the cold of Scotland. I will, therefore, pick Francesco Molinari, who has already cemented his place in the Ryder Cup team. He's 11/1 with Sky Bet.
The Barclays: All the big guns are playing in this - Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott - but some of the American guys could throw themselves right in contention for a Ryder Cup pick with a victory. I'll go with 80/1 shot Brandt Snedeker, who played ever so well at the Open, to do just that.