Monty rides new wave of European confidence

Colin Montgomerie will today finally announce the vice-captains who he believes can help him win back the Ryder Cup for Europe in two months' time. Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn and a mystery third player have at last accepted that a managerial role is the only chance they have of aiding the cause at Celtic Manor.

That would be a rather easy truth to accept on one view of the Open leaderboard on Sunday evening. While there was some criticism of the home guard's inability to win a first Claret Jug in 11 years, in reality this was a commendable display. It wasn't too long ago when three United Kingdom players in the top five would be greeted with ecstatic disbelief. The fact there are grumbles proves the rude health of British and yes, European golf, right now.

Certainly Montgomerie recognised this. There were six Europeans in the top 10 and just two Americans. Indeed, this was just the second time in the half-century since their pros have been entering the British major, that the US didn't have a representative in the top six. As Montgomerie says: "Nobody could or would say that Europe aren't the [Ryder Cup] favourites."

It has long been a case of who the Scot will be forced to leave out when he selects his three wildcards next month. When an Irishman agrees that Padraig Harrington is not a certainty to make it, you know the competition for places is hot.

Said Graeme McDowell: "On current form maybe not but he played pretty well at Firestone and the USPGA last year. If he is playing well he is a great pick but there are a lot of players who need to pick things up. There is a lot of stuff to happen between now and the picks. I'm sure Monty is wishing he had an extra pick. But things will unfold more in the next six weeks."

Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson are all currently out of qualifying positions. Paul Casey is another and after his final-round 75 two days ago – when playing in the final group with the winner – it will be interesting to see how he reacts at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks' time and then, the week after, in the season's last major at Whistling Straits.

Lee Westwood will be high up – if not topping – the betting lists in Wisconsin after his second runner-up major finish of the year and his fourth podium placing in the last five majors. Yesterday the world No 3 was in the gym working with his fitness adviser Steven McGregor as he attempts to shake off the calf injury which required extensive treatment between rounds in Fife.

When he returns in a fortnight he will have the best chance since Nick Faldo scaled the summit in the early 90s of becoming an English world No 1. He is just 0.23 of a point behind Phil Mickelson, in second spot, and less than a point behind Tiger Woods. Both his supposed superiors look "gettable" as they underachieved in Scotland. But then, so too did Westwood, in the eyes of his manager. "I don't think that was one of his better weeks for ball-striking and yet he has finished second in The Open," said Chubby Chandler yesterday. "In two weeks' time he will be fine."

This confidence is replicated throughout the European ranks, who regard Louis Oosthuizen as one of their own. "Europeans or European Tour players will win five of the next eight majors," predicted Chandler. "I can sense what happened in the Eighties is going to happen now. But there will be 25 going to the USPGA thinking they can win it, not five. They can all see the sky is the limit after watching Graeme and Louis going down the stretch unfazed at winning a major."

Official world rankings

(Europeans in bold)

1 T Woods ......... (US) ......... 10.14pts

2 P Mickelson ......... (US) ......... 9.38

3 L Westwood ......... (Eng) ......... 9.15

4 S Stricker ......... (US) ......... 7.47

5 J Furyk ......... (US) ......... 6.61

6 E Els ......... (SA) ......... 5.79

7 R McIlroy ......... (N Irl) ......... 5.72

8 P Casey ......... (Eng) ......... 5.69

9 L Donald ......... (Eng) ......... 5.55

10 I Poulter ......... (Eng) ......... 5.38

11 G McDowell ......... (N Irl) ......... 4.95

12 M Kaymer ......... (Ger) ......... 4.94

13 A Kim ......... (US) ......... 4.83

14 R Allenby ......... (Aus) ......... 4.37

15 L Oosthuizen ......... (SA) ......... 4.12

16 R Goosen ......... (SA) ......... 4.10

17 P Harrington ......... (Rep Ire) ......... 4.01

18 J Rose ......... (Eng) ......... 3.99

19 C Villegas ......... (Col) ......... 3.87

20 Z Johnson ......... (US) ......... 3.87

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