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STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (TICKER) —Nick Dougherty has expressed surprise that with just three events left in Europe’s Ryder Cup race some of the players still fighting to make the side are taking the week off.
Justin Rose, Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen occupy places eight, nine and 10 in the qualifying table, but not one of them are entered in the SAS Masters, which starts Thursday.
Colin Montgomerie also is not part of the field. And since the Scot is not currently entered for next week’s KLM Open, his only way into Nick Faldo’s team now is as one of the two wild cards.
With Ian Poulter and Paul Casey both needing a captain’s pick at present, Montgomerie’s recent form - 149th out of 155 at the PGA Championship last week and 77th out of 80 in the previous week’s Bridgestone World Championship - has to count against him.
Dougherty was stunned by Montgomerie’s absence.
“I am surprised. If I was in their position I would be playing,” he said. “It’s hard to criticise them at this point, though, because if they come out the next two weeks and make the side then it was a great decision not to play here. But if they don’t make the side they will be kicking themselves.”
The 26-year-old from Liverpool, whose mother died in April following a heart attack, had dropped from top of the table last October to 15th.
He has not had a top-50 finish in his last seven starts, but he is back this week on the Arlandastad course where he was joint runner-up last August and should he win on Sunday he will be just over $40,000 behind Hansen.
The player who stands to benefit most from the stay-aways, however, is German Martin Kaymer.
The 23-year-old was knocked out of an automatic top 10 spot by Sergio Garcia’s runner-up finish at the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, but will go to ninth in the standings by coming 12th in Sweden and will also go ahead of Rose if he is in the top three.
Kaymer has had a bit of a slump lately as well, not surprisingly given that his mother died of cancer at the start of July, but he tied Dougherty for second place last year and, although he double-bogeyed the last hole, that has to bring back some good memories.
Another intriguing aspect of the final Ryder Cup countdown is Casey’s decision to stay in America rather than return to Europe, as Rose and Poulter may yet do to try to secure their places.
Casey spoke on Sunday of having three more chances in the States to qualify automatically, but the third of them does not count in the points race.
“Maybe Paul does not know that,” commented Dougherty, who believes his only way of being part of the team next month is to force his way in.
“I think Nick’s going to pick Ian if he has to because of his second place at the Open and if Paul (Casey) is playing decently you would definitely pick him. I’d be surprised if Nick went for Monty, though. From what I’ve heard wild cards go to players in form - and Paul McGinley told me that the last thing you want is to go to a Ryder Cup playing badly.”
McGinley resigned as a vice-captain to Faldo last September to concentrate on trying to make the team again, but is only 28th on the table.
There are still three events to go, however, and time for things to change yet.
This week’s field also includes American DJ Trahan, who has accepted an invitation to play and who hopes to improve his chances of a wild card from US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, and Bristol’s Chris Wood, making his professional debut four weeks after his brilliant fifth-place finish at the Open.
Wood thought about staying amateur for another year, but instead will try to earn enough from seven invites to avoid the qualifying school.