Just when it seemed everything -- the woeful form of Tiger Woods included -- was pointing to Europe winning back the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in October, nobody can be quite so sure anymore.
Lee Westwood is injured, Henrik Stenson and now Ian Poulter are sick, Captain Colin Montgomerie has personal troubles and there is the real possibility one of four more stars -- Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Paul Casey -- might have to be omitted.
Poulter pulled out of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits ahead of his final round on Sunday with a chest infection.
"Guys, it's a no go this morning, body is not strong enough, had to withdraw," Poulter said on his Twitter site. "Gutted. First time I've ever had to do that when feeling ill. Flying back home to Orlando this morning, my bed is awaiting my arrival. I can't get back quick enough."
The Ryder Cup, of course, is still six weeks away and the top scorer two years ago has done enough already to be sure of qualifying. But one worry might be that Poulter -- and Rose -- practiced with Stenson on Tuesday just hours after the Swede had had more tests for a condition that has been bothering him since the British Open a month ago.
It was even thought that Stenson, who tied for third at St. Andrews, might have viral pneumonia. And though he got a negative report on that, his own Ryder Cup hopes have probably been ended by finishing dead last at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and missing the cut by 10 strokes at the PGA Championship.
Poulter is due back in action at the first of the FedEx Cup playoff series events next week. By then, Montgomerie hopes to have a clearer picture of where he stands with his three captain's picks. Rose, Donald and Harrington all missed the cut at Whistling Straits -- Harrington did so with a double bogey on the last hole of the second round to miss by one shot. And Martin Kaymer’s victory at Whistling Straits knocked Donald out of anautomatic spot.
There are two weeks of qualifying left, but they and Casey all want to stay in United States, and the first FedExCup event does not count for points because it finishes after the European Tour’s final points-counting event, Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
Two years ago, Poulter was heavily criticized, including by Montgomerie, for not returning to Europe to try to earn a guaranteed place, and by picking him and Casey, then-Cptain Nick Faldo couldn’t select either in-form Darren Clarke or Montgomerie. The same scenario could cost Europe again, but while Harrington insists the Ryder Cup is next in importance to him after the majors, he doesn’t intend to change his schedule.
"The Ryder Cup does come first and I want to play well in the Ryder Cup," said the Dubliner. "There is no point burning myself out."
Donald was waiting to assess the situation before deciding what to do, but his baby daughter's baptism is next weekend and he has not entered the last event that could have sealed a spot.
In addition, Edoardo Edoardo Molinari -- Scottish Open champion and a World Cup winner with his brother Francesco, who is on course to make the side -- might well need a pick as well. Edoardo Molinari is not a member of the PGA Tour and will be in Scotland.
"I think it will be difficult at the moment (to make the team), but hopefully my good play this year is enough," said last year's Challenge Tour winner. "I only started getting the points in January so it was very difficult for me as I lost four months last year. So I think to be the first guy outside the automatic spots having only played eight months I hope is enough."
His partnership with his brother is a strong thing in his favor too and so, he hopes, is turning up.
"Colin at the beginning of the year said he would like all the players to play Celtic Manor (the Wales Open in June) and Gleneagles,” he said. "I will play both as I think it is good to show you are making an effort to make the team. Obviously other players have different plans. I don't think that will make a difference, but I am making every effort to make the team and that's all I can do."