A WIN apiece for Europe and the USA gave cheer to both captains with just three weeks to go until the 38th Ryder Cup matches at Celtic Manor.
On this side of the Atlantic, Germany’s Martin Kaymer followed his major breakthrough at the US PGA Championship last month with victory in Hilversum, Holland, at the KLM Open on Sunday, to delight European skipper Colin Montgomerie.
There was also a top-eight finish for Italy’s Francesco Molinari, six shots behind Kaymer while a shot further back. 3 Irish Open champion Ross Fisher maintained his recent good form with a tie for 11th place.
In Chicago, meanwhile, Corey Pavin’s confidence ahead of the US trophy defence will have been enhanced by Dustin Johnson’s success at the BMW Championship, the penultimate event in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup play-off series.
Johnson, the sufferer of final-round woes at both the US Open and US PGA, finally got the job done on a Sunday when he shot a closing, two-under-par 69 at Cog Hill to win by a stroke from Montgomerie’s high-profile discard, Paul Casey.
Also showing well for the Americans ahead of their trip to Wales were Ryder Cup rookie Matt Kuchar, who tied for third and world number two Phil Mickelson, who shot a 67 to tie for eight with amongst others, Steve Stricker.
World number one and captain’s pick Tiger Woods, who played with Mickelson on Sunday and lost his duel with Lefty by three shots, tied for 15th alongside Celtic Manor team-mates Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson but failed to qualify for the 30-man field for the FedEx finale at The Tour Championship in Atlanta, starting on September 23.
A similar fate befell fellow wild cards Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler, who finished T21 and T45 respectively, but Pavin will have nine of his team competing for the $10 million (€7.7m) FedEx Cup Series grand prize at East Lake, while Montgomerie will have captain’s pick Luke Donald as his lone representative as Casey and fellow controversial omission Justin Rose fly the flag for Europe alongside Scotland’s Martin Laird.
Ian Poulter’s tie for 13th at the BMW was not enough to get him into the 30-man finale while Rory McIlroy’s disappointing T37, three over and 14 shots back from Dustin Johnson, ended his play-off participation.
Donald will hardly be going into The Tour Championship with head held high, despite his seventh in the overall standings, following a closing 77 that cost him a top-15 finish in his adopted hometown of Chicago.
Of the inactive European team members, both Miguel Angel Jimenez and wild card Edoardo Molinari took a week off after their one-two Omega European Masters finish at Crans sur Sierre nine days ago. Jimenez is set to return to action this weekend at the Austrian Open, as will US Open champion Graeme McDowell, while Edoardo Molinari is scheduled to play the following week’s Vivendi Cup in Paris, where Padraig Harrington and Peter Hanson will also complete their preparations for the Ryder Cup.
That leaves just one European not in action before first practice at Celtic Manor on Tuesday, September 28. World number three Lee Westwood continues to rehabilitate the right calf muscle that has kept him out since withdrawing after the second round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron in early August. According to his most recent blog post on September 1 he was set to resume putting last week and chipping this but sounded an optimistic note when he signed off: “I’m just hoping the Ryder Cup won’t start without me. The signs are good.”
Montgomerie can only hope so.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved