The battle for the final automatic spot in Europe’s Ryder Cup team is being overshadowed by one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains for the clash at Le Golf National in Paris.
Lee Westwood, who has locked horns with the Americans in the last 10 transatlantic tussles, is lurking ominously at the halfway stage in the Made in Denmark event at Silkeborg.
The Edinburgh-based Englishman is lying joint second on 11-under-par, two shots behind South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, after bolting into contention on the back of a bogey-free seven-under-par 65.
Westwood, who has been lightly raced this season – this is just his 12th event on the European Tour – said in May that he’d “jumped at the chance” to join Robert Karlsson, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald on Bjorn’s backroom team for the Ryder Cup.
The 45-year-old was back to his best as he made seven birdies, including two bursts of three on the trot, but isn’t entertaining any thoughts of earning a playing role instead in France. “Our team is strong with so many good young players that they don’t need me,” he insisted.
Home favourite Thorbjorn Olesen, who was playing in the same group as Westwood, ensured the fight for that last automatic berth is still in his own hands – but only just. The Dane made the cut with nothing to spare on two-under, helped by a chip-in eagle at the 11th.
Needing a win to have any chance of jumping above Olesen into eighth spot in the points table, Eddie Pepperell (69) sits alongside local hero Bjorn in joint 31st while Matt Fitzpatrick (68) is a shot further back in a share of 37th spot.
Bezuidenhout, a 24-year-old rookie, backed up an opening 66 with a 65 that contained eight birdies, with overnight leader Jonathan “Jigger” Thomson alongside Westwood after a 69.
David Drysdale, who is battling to retain the card he’s held for 14 seasons on the trot, is the leading Scot on six-under, two ahead of Richie Ramsay and three better than Stephen Gallacher.
Elsewhere, Scotland slipped from joint 12th overnight to a share of 29th spot after a tough scoring day in the third round of the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship at Carton House in Ireland.
Shannon McWilliam shot a two-over 74, which left her sitting joint-16th in the individual standings, but Connie Jaffrey’s 81 was the other counting score as the US moved five shots clear of the field.