Ryder Cup Race Hots Up for Gleneagles Finale
The Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles is set to welcome arguably its strongest-ever field later this month as a number of leading players make their final bids to secure a spot on the European Ryder Cup side.
The event, which takes place from 23-26 August over the remodelled PGA Centenary Course, host venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup, is likely to be one of the most exciting in the tournament’s 14-year history.
The Johnnie Walker Championship represents the last chance for European Tour golfers to play their way into captain Jose Maria Olazabal's side bound for Medinah in late September, with places still up for grabs.
The likes of Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, Spain’s Alvaro Quiros and defending Gleneagles champion Thomas Bjorn are all still in the team mix who are teeing up in Perthshire.
Also confirmed to take part are ex-Ryder Cup member Paul Casey – a two-time winner of the tournament – and two of Colin Montgomerie's victorious 2010 team, Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher. Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open champion Jeev Milkha Singh is also confirmed, as are former US Open champions Retief Goosen and Michael Campbell and ex-US PGA winners Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel.
Montgomerie and two-time Masters champion Olazabal are taking part too, together with other big names such as Henrik Stenson, Paul McGinley and Paul Lawrie, currently seeking to confirm his Ryder Cup place at this week’s US PGA at Kiawah Island.
Stephen Gallacher, Richie Ramsay and another past Gleneagles hero, the 2007 champion Marc Warren, will also front a strong Scottish contingent over The PGA Centenary.
"The entry list this year is as good as it has ever been," said Montgomerie, also the tournament chairman. "If you win, you have a golden opportunity to make the team, either automatically or as a wildcard, as Edoardo Molinari did two years ago. He won the tournament in 2010 and that convinced me to give him one of the wildcards for my team at Celtic Manor.
"Everyone with an outside chance of making the side is playing, which is naturally a very good thing for both the championship and the spectators who come along."
The cancellation of next week’s Czech Open, as a result of ongoing economic problems in Europe, also appears to have strengthened the field at Gleneagles.
Since 2008, the Johnnie Walker Championship has held a special place in The Ryder Cup calendar on alternate years, as it has been where qualification for the European Team ends, and where the captain has then finalised his picks. This will once again be the case in 2012, as Olazábal announces his 12-man team, including his two picks, the day after the tournament.
Following a six-month period of course maintenance over the winter after consultation with designer and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, the new-look PGA Centenary Course will again test Europe’s best. A number of course changes have been made, most notably at the par-5 9th and 18th holes. The finishing hole, in particular, has been virtually completely revamped after Nicklaus’ input.
Adult day tickets for the championship are priced at £22 and season tickets £45. Under-16s are admitted to the event free of charge when accompanied by an adult.