Wild card worries mount for Torrance

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The Independent Online

An American winner of the Open Championship cannot overshadow a good week for European golf at Royal Lytham, but there is still some manoeuvring to be done before the Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance, gets the team he wants to face the United States at The Belfry in September.

The biggest mover of the championship was Niclas Fasth, a 29-year-old Swede who jumped from 19th to six on the qualifying list, which closes at the BMW International next month. But the two-shot penalty for carrying an extra club suffered by Ian Woosnam left the Welshman in 12th place instead of inside the automatic top-10 qualifying places.

There are eight events left over the next six weeks, with the biggest points on offer at the USPGA Championship in four weeks' time and the NEC World Invitational a week later. Only the top 12 on the list after the USPGA qualify for the NEC.

However, unless there are dramatic changes in players' schedules, some of those Torrance would like to see qualify have only one or two tournaments left to make the team.

After eight appearances in the Ryder Cup, Woosnam is down to be an assistant to Torrance at The Belfry. But both men would prefer it if Woosie was on the team after his joint third place at Lytham and a second in Ireland two weeks earlier.

Bernhard Langer, who also finished in the six-way tie for third place, has even more claim to a place after a superb run in the States earlier in the year. In three of the top-four events of the season so far, the German has finished in the top six. His sixth place at the US Masters counted in the Ryder Cup qualifying but his third at the US Players' Championship did not.

Langer is currently 14th in the Cup standings, but Torrance's two wild cards are probably still, at the moment, reserved for Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik, who shared ninth place at Lytham. Both play mainly on the US Tour and are, respectively, 18th and 34th, on the list.

Miguel Angel Jimeñez, also third in the Open and with Garcia, Parnevik and Langer one of four players in the top 12 Europeans on the world rankings currently not in the team, is 16th, one ahead of his countryman Jose Maria Olazabal.

Langer said: "I hope this sends Sam another message that I have been at the top in three of the biggest events we have had this year. I was the best European at the Masters and the Players' and the second best here. I hope he will consider me if I don't make it straight in. I understand there are other guys playing well, but with my current form I believe I should be there but it's a difficult situation."

This is the second Ryder Cup in a row where the Open has had a large effect on the make-up of the European team. In 1999, Paul Lawrie and Jean van de Velde both qualified from their performances at Carnoustie.

Lawrie, the champion after a play-off, was the top European point scorer at Brookline while Van de Velde, who let victory slip away with a calamitous 72nd hole, was one of the players benched by the captain, Mark James, until the Sunday singles.

Fasth has enjoyed most success at the Tour School. He finished top in 1996 and then came through the American version to play on the US Tour in 1998. Splitting his time between America and Europe, he lost his cards on both tours and had to go back to the European Qualifying School in 1999, where he finished second.

His only victory to date came at a weak field event in Madeira last year, but he has been consistently on the leaderboard over the last few weeks. He set off well before the final groups on Sunday and even after going into the lead held his composure well to set a clubhouse target only Duval could beat.

"I became a little nervous when I got into the lead but nothing too bad," Fasth said. "I kept it under control using breathing techniques I was taught by the Swedish Golf Federation. I really do like being in those situations."

The pressure will be even greater at the Ryder Cup and he has an added complication. His girlfriend, Marie Tinnert, is expecting their first child on 1 October, three days after the match at The Belfry ends.


1 D Clarke (N Ire) 1,921,301pts

2 T Bjorn (Den) 1,583,391

3 P Harrington (Ire) 1,535,549

4 P Fulke (Swe) 1,191,990

5 L Westwood (Eng) 1,064,353

6 N Fasth (Swe) 961,147

7 C Montgomerie (Sco) 895,274

8 P Price (Wal) 791,862

9 P McGinley (Ire) 759,242

10 A Coltart (Sco) 703,676

11 M Gronberg (Swe) 696,488; 12 I Woosnam (Wal) 673,298; 13 A Oldcorn (Sco) 651,685; 14 B Langer (Ger) 642,785; 15 R Karlsson (Swe) 641,104; 16 M A Jimenez (Sp) 628,421; 17 J M Olazabal (Sp) 617,626; 18 S Garcia (Sp) 617,236; 19 T Levet (Fr) £576,235; 20 I Poulter (Eng) 571,316.

(Leading 10 qualify on 2 September. Two wild cards to be decided by team captain)