Poulter on Ryder Cup alert

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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter remained on Ryder Cup stand-by yesterday as he flew to St Louis for the American Express World Championship, which begins on Thursday.

Disappointed to finish one place away from an automatic spot in Europe's side, the Luton golfer has watched as Lee Westwood and then Thomas Bjorn have had injury scares eased by visits to specialists.

Westwood, having pulled out of the NEC World Championship in Akron with what was initially feared to be ligament damage to his left wrist, returned last Thursday in Switzerland and finished 16th in the European Masters. Bjorn withdrew there before the third round after suffering what he had at first thought was a dislocated shoulder but turned out to be a repetitive strain problem which just needed to be rested.

Bjorn now hopes to play again at next week's Lancôme Trophy in Paris, the final warm-up for the Ryder Cup clash beginning at The Belfry on Friday fortnight.

Poulter, who withdrew from the Swiss event after an opening 80 and prior to that complained of a problem with a tendon under his collarbone, will be expected to maintain his focus just in case he is needed as a replacement. But he said: "The Ryder Cup is still three weeks away and there is probably only the slimmest of chances that Thomas won't take his place in the side. I am sure he will do everything he can to get himself back and fully fit. But I'm 100 per cent fit now."

In Montreal, the American Scott Verplank warmed up for the Ryder Cup with a final round of 67 for a three-shot win at the Canadian Open.

It seemed like Verplank would cruise to victory before he took a six at the par-four 16th hole, allowing Bob Estes to creep within a shot, but eventually he showed the resilience to seal his fifth career title and his second in just over a year.

"I played really nice, up until a couple of those little shaky moments," he said. "But sometimes you're supposed to win. Sometimes you get the breaks and you win."