Colin Montgomerie will have to leave out one of Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Justin Rose when he names his three Ryder Cup wild cards on Sunday. That much became certain when Peter Hanson won the Czech Open yesterday.
The Swede's play-off victory in Celadna saw him leapfrog Paul Casey into the top nine who automatically go into the biennial match against America at Celtic Manor in five weeks. Casey will now throw himself at Monty's mercy; just like Europe's other three golfing heavyweights.
There is one qualifying event remaining, but the big-name quartet have all decided to tee it up in the Barclays in New Jersey this week rather than the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Only Rose would have had no chance of playing his way in by right if he had made the trip over. The upshot is that at least one supposed certainty will be left disappointed by Montgomerie's announcement.
Perhaps it will be two if Montgomerie decides he has to pair Edoardo Molinari with his brother, Francesco, whose spot was confirmed yesterday. Or even three, if Montgomerie decides he cannot select someone who has put the dollar-chase before representing his continent.
Meanwhile, in the race proper, Miguel Angel Jimenez is in serious danger of missing out. The veteran Spaniard also saw Hanson overtake him yesterday. Jimenez managed only a closing 73 on the Prosper course he designed, dropping from joint-second overnight into a tie for seventh. That could cost him dearly. The 46-year-old does not intend going to Scotland either, electing to attend a nephew's wedding instead, and could be knocked out by Ross McGowan, Simon Dyson or Alvaro Quiros. The first-named will have to finish in the top two, while the other two will need to win.
Hanson is all but assured of his debut. The 32-year-old, who held a four-stroke lead going into the final round, seemed to be crumbling under the pressure when he shot three successive bogeys from the second and then double-bogeyed the 12th. But a birdie on the 16th drew him level with Ireland's Peter Lawrie and England's Gary Boyd and, despite a 74, he scraped into the three-man shoot-out.
On the second sudden-death hole, an 18-foot birdie putt gave him his second title of the season – and a dream date on 1 October. Hanson only secured a sponsors' invite on Monday and was clearly overjoyed. "To know I had to come here and win and pull it off feels great," he said. "There's another week to go, but it looks so much better now."
Indeed it does. Only if Dyson and McGowan finish first and second, in that order, will he be denied. A brilliant driver with a solid short game, Hanson will not let Montgomerie down. In any normal circumstance, he would be delighted to have him on his team. But this is far from a normal situation – and is anything but comfortable for the Europe captain.
Three months ago, he declared that he expected any player wishing for a wild card to be in Auchterarder. He has since rowed back on this ultimatum but the rank and file of the European Tour are not impressed with Casey and Co.
"The Ryder Cup is the pinnacle of a lot of players careers, but is money more important to people nowadays?" asked Andrew Coltart, who played in the 1999 match. "I'm a bit concerned about that. I'd like to have seen them come back and support Europe. But they've got other things on their plate. The FedEx Cup is maybe tied into some of their sponsorship deals and they've decided they're going to plough on after that goal."
Path to Ryder Cup
There are three ways to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team.
*World Points List: The four highest Europeans in the World Points List after the Johnnie Walker Championship next Sunday qualify.
1. Lee Westwood 422.0 points
2. Rory McIlroy......... 316.9
3. Martin Kaymer......... 285.4
4. Graeme McDowell......... 249.3
5. Luke Donald 231.1
6. Edoardo Molinari......... 218.4
7. Ian Poulter......... 211.2
8. Padriag Harrington 204.9
9. Justin Rose 195.7
10. Francesco Molinari 172.5
*European Points List: In addition to those four, the next five highest-placed from the European Tour qualify.
1. Lee Westwood 3,446,137
2. Martin Kaymer 2,638,282
3. Rory McIlroy 2,368,205
4. Graeme McDowell 2,307,041
5. Ian Poulter 2,238,874
6. Ross Fisher 1,708.614
7. Francesco Molinari 1,612,747
8. Peter Hanson 1,580,707
9. Miguel Jimenez 1,554,775
10. Paul Casey 1,487,776
*Captain Colin Montgomerie will make three wild card picks next Sunday, thought to include three from Casey, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Justin Rose.