Jimenez to play at Gleneagles to boost hopes of making Ryder Cup team

miguel angel jimenez
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Miguel Angel Jimenez, who won the Dubai Desert Classic and Alstom French Open earlier this year, will be trying to secure his fourth Ryder Cup berth at the Johnnie Walker Championship.
By
Mark Garrod
PA Sport

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Published: Monday, August 23, 2010 | 5:43 p.m.

Miguel Angel Jimenez has chosen to fight for a Ryder Cup place this week after cancelling plans to attend his nephew's wedding.

Pushed down into the ninth and last guaranteed spot on the points table by Peter Hanson's win at the Czech Open on Sunday, the 46-year-old Jimenez flew home to Spain and on arrival decided that it was next stop Scotland, rather than going along to Saturday's family celebration.

The Dubai Desert Classic and Alstom French Open champion will be trying to secure his fourth Ryder Cup berth at the Johnnie Walker Championship, the end of the yearlong qualifying race -- providing he makes the halfway cut, that is.

"Basically, Miguel feels that this is quite likely to be his last opportunity to play in the match," said Jimenez's manager, Sarah Phillips. "He looked at the points situation on his flight back to Malaga and then texted me to say he was going to play. It's sod's law that one of the players who can pass him would do so if he wasn't there, so he wants to give himself the best opportunity."

Jimenez, who while playing with Hanson dropped from second to seventh on the last day in the Czech Open, could be overtaken by Englishmen Ross McGowan and Simon Dyson or by his fellow Spaniard Alvaro Quiros. McGowan needs a top-two finish to have a chance, while Dyson and Quiros have to win on Sunday.

Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald could also have qualified but have controversially chosen to stay in the United States and play The Barclays, the first of the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoff series. That tournament doesn’t count in the European Ryder Cup race, and along with Justin Rose and Scottish Open champion Edoardo Molinari, they all now need one of Captain Colin Montgomerie's three wild cards.

What Jimenez's decision also means is that Molinari's brother and World Cup-winning partner Francesco is suddenly not quite sure of his first Ryder Cup appearance yet. He currently stands seventh, but could drop out of the top nine if McGowan wins, Jimenez is in the first six and Hanson in the first 10.

Ross Fisher is still safe, however, so Montgomerie knows half of his team: Lee Westwood (calf injury permitting), Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Fisher.

Meanwhile, the European Tour's Chief Operating Officer Keith Waters has quashed speculation that bad weather at Gleneagles might offer an amazing lifeline to Donald, Harrington and Rose.

The qualifying rules for Montgomerie's side state that automatic places will go to "the leading four players on the Ryder Cup World Points List as of Sunday, August 29, or at the conclusion of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, whichever is the latter."

With heavy rain and fog in the forecast, there is the possibility that it will not finish until Monday -- and by then Donald, Harrington and Rose might have been able to gather sufficient points at The Barclays in New Jersey to climb into the top four.

But Waters stated: "The Barclays does not count, irrespective of the Johnnie Walker Championship finish time."

Donald discovered only little more than a week ago that the FedExCup event didn’t carry Ryder Cup points and Harrington said it was only recently that he remembered that fact.

Jimenez's late entry increases the number of world ranking points on offer at Gleneagles, but if Edoardo Molinari won the tournament he would still finish one agonizing point behind McDowell on that Ryder Cup table. And the $363,000 first prize could also leave him less than $15,000 short of Jimenez's total in ninth place on the overall standings.

Such a win, though, would strengthen his wild card claims, particularly if his brother does clinch a spot.