Paul Lawrie is in position to celebrate his return to the Ryder Cup with another victory today, as Nicolas Colsaerts fights "like a dog" to join him on the plane to Chicago.
Lawrie, who last represented Europe in 1999, leads the Johnnie Walker Championship here by one shot from the Frenchman Romain Wattel after a third-round 67. Colsaerts, who needs a top-two finish to knock Martin Kaymer out of the last automatic spot on Jose Maria Olazabal's teamsheet, had a one-under-par 71 which has left the Belgian in joint 13th place.
It may not matter what he shoots in the final round. Unless Padraig Harrington wins The Barclays at Farmingdale, the big-hitting Colsaerts looks likely to join Ian Poulter as Olazabal's picks to complete the European Ryder Cup team.
Thomas Bjorn, one of the four assistant captains along with Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Miguel Angel Jimenez, had dinner with Olazabal on Friday. "I think he's pretty much where he wants to be with the team," said Bjorn. "He's pretty certain what he wants to do and there's only a few people that can really rock the boat if they win the last tournament.
"We talked about a lot of things, including obviously Nicolas Colsaerts, but a lot of other players. I think he listened to us and he'll have to make the decision [tomorrow]. We can only give him information and say what we see. He's pretty cool and he's studied everybody down to the last detail.
"He knows what he wants to do and what team he wants to bring – and that's a good thing, I think. He's very much in good spirit about what he's got."
Colsaerts is prepared to be kept on tenterhooks for another day at least, however. "I have no clue – you can look at so many different scenarios," he said. "What I need to do is shoot the lowest round of my career. I'm thinking about it all the time. When you want something that much it's difficult to avoid."
He is aware of a wild-card threat not only from Harrington across the Atlantic – despite Olazabal saying the Dubliner needs "at least a win" – but also in Scotland from the Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, who could yet finish ahead of him on the points table.
Lawrie, though, has his focus solely on trying to win on home soil for the third time after the 1999 Open Championship – the victory that led to his Ryder Cup debut – and then the Dunhill Links title he added at St Andrews in 2001.
Lawrie ended nine years without a victory in Spain last year and has looked good for a second cap ever since he triumphed in Qatar in February and then finished runner-up to Luke Donald in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.
He resumed one behind the joint halfway leaders, Mark Foster and Richard Finch, but the two Englishmen had shockers: 75 and 78 respectively. In stark contrast, the 21-year-old Wattel shot a 63 that would have equalled the course record but for preferred lies being in operation on the wet fairways.
Lawrie had three birdies in reaching the turn in 33 and while he did bogey the 10th and 15th there were four more birdies on the inward half. The last of them came despite his ball plugging in the sand by the green at the long 16th. He holed an eight-footer there, then got up and down from another bunker at the next.
Colin Montgomerie, at 49, believes that he might yet become the Tour's oldest winner – if not now, then very soon. After a 69 for seven under Montgomerie said: "That's the best golf I've played in a number of years. I'm very disappointed not to shoot a lot lower."
On the Ryder Cup, Europe's 2010 captain said: "You've got to think of Poulter and Colsaerts really."
Harrington is the only player with the potential to disrupt that thinking, and he would no doubt enjoy making the choice difficult for Olazabal, because the pair have not exactly been close since a row during the Seve Trophy tournament in 2003.
Olazabal insists that is not an issue. "If people believe that [old row] is interfering with my judgement, they are completely wrong," he said last week. "If that was the case I would be failing as a captain."
Harrington looks unlikely to put that resolve to the test. After an opening 64 at Farmingdale, he has followed that with two 75s. Hardly Ryder Cup form even if Colsaerts achieves the near impossible and ousts Kaymer.
The race for the last place
Qualifiers from European Tour:
1 Rory McIlroy (GB)
2 Justin Rose (GB)
3 Graeme McDowell (GB)
4 Paul Lawrie (GB)
5 Francesco Molinari (It)
Qualifiers on world points list:
1 Luke Donald (GB)
2 Lee Westwood (GB)
3 Sergio Garcia (Sp)
4 Peter Hanson (Swe)
5 Martin Kaymer (Ger) or Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel)
Jose Maria Olazabal, the captain, picks the other two team membersReuse content