Golf: The pressure's on

by DEREK LAWRENSON, Daily Mail

Only one tournament to go before the Ryder Cup team for Europe is finalised and, if anything, the plot has thickened.

Sam Torrance confirmed in Munich yesterday that Sergio Garcia would be one of his wild cards when he names the 12-man team on Sunday but became decidedly elusive over whether Jesper Parnevik would be the other.

For months, leading up to today's start of the BMW International, Torrance has leaned towards Parnevik, but that was before it became probable Jose Maria Olazabal would miss out.

Now Torrance would appear to be keeping one of his two options open until the last minute.

He said: 'If Olly finished second in this event and jumped up to 11th or 12th place in the Ryder Cup table, or indeed any established Ryder Cup player did well here, it would definitely put the cat among the pigeons.'

What are we supposed to read into that? A complete red herring or a message to Olly - give me an excuse to pick you? Torrance was in excellent form yesterday. Having to choose between an Olazabal showing some form and Parnevik, who was the perfect partner for Garcia last time, would leave many people feeling as though a headache was coming on.

But the closer the match draws, the more the captain appears to be enjoying himself - especially the by-play surrounding his appearance as a competitor here.

Over the first two rounds Torrance plays alongside Paul Lawrie and at breakfast yesterday he said to his fellow Scot: 'Sorry about that. I bet I was the last person you wanted to see drawn out next to your name.'

Lawrie is one of 13 players chasing the other Ryder Cup spot that is not pinned down here. Only an improbable series of events would displace Bernhard Langer from ninth in the table, but Phillip Price, in the 10th and last automatic spot, is far more vulnerable.

If Price misses the cut, his prospects of making a cherished Ryder Cup debut would be slim indeed.

Meaning no disrespect to Price, the ideal scenario for Torrance would probably be a victory for either Garcia or Olazabal, which would mean both - plus Parnevik - could make it to The Belfry.

It is hard, mind you, to root against the eminently likeable Price. The Welshman has been living with this pressure all summer and it has showed in his golf. Everywhere he goes people only talk about one thing.

When he got back from the World Championship event in Akron, Ohio, on Tuesday he looked at the number of messages piled up on his answering machine and decided they could wait until he returned from Munich on Sunday.

Price said: 'I'd love to say this is just another week but I know it's not. The amount of focus on me makes it completely different, but I'm hopeful of hanging on.

'If I could choose a course that suits me perfectly this is it. Drives, short irons and good putting are the keys here and that's my game.'

Torrance knows what Price and the rest of the hopefuls are going through. Ten years ago he was in pretty much the same boat. He needed to finish in the top five here to secure a place for the match at Kiawah Island and was making a brilliant fist of it until he got to the 17th hole on the final day. A double bogey changed everything.

He said: 'Suddenly the drive on the last became a totally different proposition. I'm pleased to say I hung on.

'But anyone who does well here and qualifies has undergone the perfect preparation for what will be in store at The Belfry.'

Past history bears that out. Two years ago Padraig Harrington finished second to move into the qualifying places and went on to enjoy a notable Ryder Cup debut.

In 1993 Joakim Haeggman held on to the last spot by getting down in two from a bunker at the last and again did himself justice in the match itself. Paul Broadhurst, unbeaten when he played in 1991, again qualified by finishing runner-up in the last event in Munich.

Ian Poulter is the man most likely to overtake Price since he stands just behind him in the table and the ebullient 25-year-old is loving all the conjecture.

Some rookies would struggle to rest at night but Poulter slept five hours on the flight back from America on Monday and 12 more on Tuesday night.

He said: 'I know I'm going to enjoy the next four days but I don't know whether everyone else will be able to say the same.'

John Daly, flown over at great expense, will certainly enjoy himself. What did he think about the Ryder Cup?

With a mischievous smile the ever-quotable one came up with a somewhat different take on it all: 'After Brookline I don't know why they don't just give both sides boxing gloves and let them beat the s*** out of one another.'

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