Boys put toys away as battle for Ryder Cup places begins

FOR Lee Westwood it was water-skiing, for Darren Clarke it was fishing and for Rory McIlroy it was watching girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play tennis and treatment on his injured arm.

But now it is back to business after their post-US PGA Championship time off — and Ryder Cup business into the bargain.

The trio return to action at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland — the first event in the year-long race for places in Jose Maria Olazabal’s side.

Having left Wozniacki to continue her bid for what he already has — a US Open title — McIlroy resumes his attempt to achieve what she already has — the world number one spot.

Luke Donald has put that out of reach for the time being, but the 22-year-old Irishman wants to start moving in the right direction again after slipping from third to sixth since his victory in Washington.

“I think if I win I can get back up to third, so that’s a nice little goal for me,” said McIlroy, who like Westwood and Clarke is also playing next week’s KLM Open in Holland but will not be playing for Britain and Ireland at the Vivendi Seve Trophy in Paris in a fortnight.

New cup captain Olazabal had wanted as many of his big names as possible to appear in the match — not just to see them in action, but to honour the memory of event founder Seve Ballesteros.

But McIlroy said yesterday he has commitments with his sponsors and also wants some time at home before embarking on 12 weeks of travel.

He also needed the last two weeks off after playing that shot — that “stupid” shot, as he now admits himself — against a tree root at the US PGA.

“The wrist is fine and the elbow’s nothing really, but going up into the shoulder there’s a little bit of sensation,” McIlroy told European Tour radio. “I hit balls three times last week and it was about as much as I could do, but I’m ready to go.”

Westwood flew to Barbados after the disappointment of seeing the last Major of the year slip away.

The world number two’s eighth place in Atlanta was his seventh top-10 in his last 10 tournaments, but he now has to wait until next April for his next chance to break his Major duck.

“There are still a lot of big tournaments coming up,” said Westwood. “I know Luke’s a long way in front in the Race to Dubai, but we should try to put the pressure on.”

The 38-year-old trails Donald by over £1.75million – and it would still be over £1m even if he won over the next two weeks.

Clarke hopes to start afresh at Crans-sur-Sierre after two weeks in America when the “whirlwind” that followed his British Open victory caught up with him.

“I was done — I had no concentration,” he said of finishing 68th out of 76th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then missing the cut at the US PGA.

McIlroy partners defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and young Korean Noh Seung-yul in the first two rounds, Westwood is with Swede Alex Noren and Thai Thongchai Jaidee and Clarke with 18-year-old Matteo Manassero and recent winner Oliver Fisher.

German Martin Kaymer, down to fifth in the rankings from top in May, is also in the field.

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