France are favourites to be named today as hosts of the 2018 Ryder Cup as the selection committee is set to resist the emotional pull of the passing of Severiano Ballesteros.
The five-times major champion, who died last week aged 54, was the patron of the Madrid bid and last week his brother, Baldomero, pleaded with the European Tour to show "sensitivity" and award the 42nd edition of the biennial match to the Spanish capital as a tribute to Ballesteros. Seve's two sons backed their uncle's call, but it seems the family are to be disappointed when the announcement is made at Wentworth today.
France are in pole position, with Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands the other candidates. Of the five, only Spain have been hosts before, when Ballesteros was the victorious captain at Valderrama in 1997. Yet the bidding committee assured the Madrid team that would not be to its disadvantage in the process. One source told The Independent "it was a bidding frenzy" and that the "huge sums" will "dwarf" the previous European stagings of the Ryder Cup.
The French bid apparently impressed not only because of Le Golf National, the much respected course just outside of Paris, but also because of the government and private-sector backing. The sizeable economic promises from Germany were also understood to be persuasive.
The announcement will hold much interest for the players congregating at Finca Cortesin in Andalusia for the Volvo World Match Play. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald will both be practising on the Costa del Sol today as England celebrate having the world's No 1 and No 2 for the first time in the 25-year history of the rankings. Not bad for a nation which just a decade ago had one representative in the top 100.
Donald leapfrogged Germany's Martin Kaymer with his fourth-place finish at the Players Championship at Sawgrass on Sunday. Donald, who won the Accenture World Match Play in February, will have the chance to go one step further and replace Westwood this week, although with six of the world's top seven in the field it will take some performance. But then, with 13 top 10 finishes from his last 14 events, Donald must be favourite, particularly as he was unimpressed with his placing in the £5.8m event known as "the fifth major".
"A solid week, but a lot of what-ifs too," said Donald. "The upside was I didn't play my best and still gave myself a chance."