GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- Nicolas Colsaerts really dug deep to keep his Ryder Cup dream alive -- and possibly spare European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal a nightmare scenario – on Friday.
The 29-year-old Belgian needs to win or finish second in the Johnnie Walker Championship this week to earn an automatic spot on the European Ryder Cup team, and he goes into the weekend tied for seventh and only three shots behind co-leaders Mark Foster and Richard Finch.
Colsaerts, who won the Volvo World Match Play title in May and was seventh at the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship on Monday, has the chance to knock Martin Kaymer out of the 10th and final automatic spot. If he fails to do that, Olazabal might have the far more difficult decision of choosing between Colsaerts and three-major winner Padraig Harrington for his final wild-card spot – Ian Poulter is widely believed to have the first wild card locked up.
"It was not enjoyable," Colsaerts admitted after a battling 2-under-par 70 lifted him to 5 under at halfway at Gleneagles. "It wasn't a very convincing round until a couple of holes to go."
He fell back into a tie for 28th when he bogeyed the seventh and 13th, but three birdies in the last five holes boosted not just his hopes, but also his mood. The finish also allows him to sleep in longer before he tees off again on Saturday, and that could be important after jet lag appeared to play a part in his struggles on Friday.
"You can feel the freshness is not totally there and it was kind of a grind," he said, "but I didn't shoot myself out and the three birdies were very important."
Foster is hoping for a "Super Saturday" three weeks after being there in the Olympic stadium for Britain's greatest night of athletics ever. The 37-year-old from Worksop, whose only European Tour win came nine years ago, led the 2011 Johnnie Walker by one with one hole to play last year, took a bogey on the last hole and then lost out in a five-man playoff.
He shot 68, while Finch, best remembered for falling in a river on the final hole as he won the 2008 Irish Open, had a 67.
They are a stroke ahead of Scotland's Paul Lawrie and Australian Brett Rumford, while among those just one behind Colsaerts is tournament chairman Colin Montgomerie -- 510th in the world and at 49 trying to become the oldest winner in European Tour history.
Lawrie and Italian Francesco Molinari are the only two certain members of Olazabal's side in the field and both could yet win. Molinari, whose brother Edoardo lifted the title two years ago and was rewarded with a Ryder Cup wild card, stands 4 under.
Olazabal himself missed the cut, as did two of his assistants Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.
Defending champion Thomas Bjorn is another assistant captain, and he will resume 3 under and still with an outside chance of a successful defense of the title. If he achieves it, he might suddenly come back into the reckoning for a wild card.