Sergio Garcia fights for Ryder Cup spot on two fronts

SERGIO Garcia seems certain to be included on one of two selection lists that will be unveiled by Jose Maria Olazabal, the European Ryder Cup captain, at Gleneagles in ten days’ time.

The world No 29 is still in the running to face the Americans for a sixth time in the biennial event, but is probably going to need a wild card from his fellow Spaniard after dropping out of the ten automatic spots following last week’s USPGA Championship.

The race for those prized places ends after next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, where Olazabal will unveil his two picks on Monday week after breaking with tradition by delaying that eagerly-awaited announcement by a day. At the same time, he will also add a fourth vice captain to join Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley after they were confirmed yesterday as key members of Olazabal’s backroom team for the match at Medinah on 29 September-1 October.

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Another Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, is a strong contender for that spot, the 48-year-old having assisted Seve Ballesteros at Valderrama in 1997 and also played in the event four times, including being a member of the winning team at Celtic Manor two years ago.

However, Garcia, a vice captain along with Bjorn, Clarke, McGinley and Olazabal in Wales after failing to make Colin Montgomerie’s team, would also be in the frame if he missed out on a wild card, with big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington the two others most likely to be in the frame.

Both Garcia and Colsaerts are playing in this week’s Wyndham Championship at Greensboro in North Carolina, but the latter is the only one among the three wild-card contenders heading for Perthshire next week. Olazabal will be there and so, too, will the three vice captains he’s already picked. Bjorn, of course, is the defending champion after the Dane won a marathon five-man play-off to land the Johnnie Walker title last year, while Clarke has accepted an invitation from the sponsors.

The Ulsterman was once a fierce critic of the PGA Centenary Course, but is keen to play it again following the changes that have been carried out by Jack Nicklaus, the original designer, in the build-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Bjorn, Clarke and McGinley are all contenders for the captaincy then, but, at the moment, the trio, with a total of ten Ryder Cups between them, are delighted to be assisting Olazabal as he bids to join Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher and Bernhard Langer in becoming a winning European captain on US soil.

“I could not be more delighted than to have Thomas, Darren and Paul as vice-captains, especially as we bonded so well supporting Colin Montgomerie in 2010,” said the Spaniard.

“All three are world-class golfers with tremendous experience of playing in the Ryder Cup which is absolutely invaluable. For me to have these guys – all such great friends – by my side is fantastic. I know like me they will now be counting down

the days to Medinah with one aim: to return home with the cup.”

Olazabal, who was Nick Faldo’s sole vice captain as Europe lost at Valhalla four years ago, added: “Thomas, Darren and Paul share a special spirit and love for the game and they have the respect and admiration of everyone in golf.

“Their passion, commitment and desire to win will encourage everyone in the team room and for me it is so important to have guys you know, guys you trust, guys familiar with this contest because the Ryder Cup is unique.

“My own experiences as a vice-captain in 2008 and 2010 taught me that you need a lot

of help that week. You need

eyes, extra eyes to follow the players in the practice rounds to gather as much information as you can about how everyone is playing.

“Then it is important to have each match watched because you have to hand in your pairings for the afternoon matches when the players are still out on the course.

Olazabal’s counterpart,

Davis Love III, has named Fred Couples, Mike Hulbert, Jeff Sluman and Scott Verplank as his four vice-captains for the match in Chicago.