While Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington were battling it out down the stretch at Oakland Hills, up in the CBS tower behind the 18th green, Nick Faldo must have been doing cartwheels.
The Spaniard did his captain a huge favor by thrusting himself onto Europe's Ryder Cup team. Garcia is now third in the points list and a certainty to play at Valhalla, a fact that lifted his spirits after a disappointing runner-up finish in the PGA Championship. "It's great for the team," he said. "It's awesome to make the team. It was one of my goals this year and I am looking forward to it. Hopefully I can keep the momentum of my good form going into Valhalla."
There was more cheer for captain Faldo courtesy of Justin Rose. The Englishman came into this week sitting over the trap door in the 10th and final spot for automatic qualification. He tied ninth at Oakland Hills and moved up to 8th place, overtaking Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen, who missed the cut.
"It was a good week as regards the Ryder Cup," Rose said. "Every penny and every point counts, grinding down the stretch. I guess with Sergio cementing himself back into the team it frees up a pick for Nick because he won't have to use one on Sergio. The team is shaping up nicely. Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are playing really well. Key guys are showing form at just the right time."
Rose plans to celebrate with a week of R&R at his home in Lake Nona, Florida. "I'll put my feet up, jump in the pool, and grab a few beers tonight on the way home," he said.
Robert Karlsson, who tied for 20th at the PGA, has secured his post on Faldo's roster and is also planning to ahead of his trip to Kentucky. "I'm going to play in the KLM Open in Europe and then take three weeks off to get nice and rested for the Ryder Cup," he said.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell continued the good form that earned him a win at the Scottish Open last month and finished in a tie for 15th. That earns him a ticket to his first Ryder Cup. "It will be a dream come true," said the former Walker Cup star. "It's huge for the team that we don't have to waste a pick on Sergio. I'm obviously excited about it. It's a great buzz."
However, two key European stars have work to do in the final three weeks of events to secure their berths: Casey and Poulter.
Both have shown good form and are the favorites to claim Faldo's two wildcards at the end of the month if they don't automatically qualify. Poulter, who finished second at the British Open, is 12th in the standings after a T31 finish at Oakland Hills. He is fast closing in on Soren Hansen's all-important spot at No. 10 in the automatic qualifying spot.
Casey needs a win to qualify, but three recent top 10 finishes and a T15 at Oakland Hills serve as a timely reminder to Faldo what Casey can bring to the team. "If I don't win, all I can do is play exceptional golf and show the boss that I'm playing some decent stuff," Casey said.
Garcia's strong showing this weekend to make the team has certainly helped Casey's chances of earning a wildcard. "There's nothing else quite like the Ryder Cup," Casey said. The atmosphere is amazing. It's very addictive. And I don't want to miss it."
Two other European stars-one rising, one falling-saw their hopes of making the team take a beating at Oakland Hills. Germany's Martin Kaymer missed the cut and has dropped out of the top 10 automatic spots. And Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup days look to be over, at least as a player. His 20-over-par total on the way to missing the cut included a second round 84, equaling his worst his worst ever round in a major.
Faldo no longer has to "waste" a wildcard on Garcia. He's probably not inclined to waste one on Monty.\n