2001: Finish puts Fasth in Ryder mix

By Alistair Tait

Lytham St. Annes, England

Ian Woosnam’s two-stroke penalty for carrying too many clubs in the final round of the British Open cost him more than just the $312,216 difference between finishing solo second and tied for third.

It also might cost him a place on this year’s European Ryder Cup team.

An unfortunate break, yes, but you won’t find Niclas Fasth complaining. Fasth’s solo second-place finish at 7-under 277, three shots behind champion David Duval, moved him to sixth on the European table, virtually guaranteeing him a place on the European team that will take on the United States in September at the Belfry in England.

Woosnam’s tie for third with Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Billy Mayfair, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Bernhard Langer, gave him 192,997 Ryder Cup points. He moved from 18th at the start of the week to 12th at the completion of the tournament. Take away the two-stroke penalty and the Welshman would have finished alone in second place.

Second place at the Open was worth 590,854 points. That would have elevated Woosnam to sixth in the European standings, all but locking up a spot on his ninth European team.

Fasth earned the 590,854 points for his second-place finish. He jumped one spot ahead of Colin Montgomerie, and will join countryman Pierre Fulke in the lineup. With Mathias Grönberg in the 11th spot, and Robert Karlsson in 15th, the European team could have a definite Scandinavian feel when it is finalized Sept. 2.

Fasth and Woosnam weren’t the only players to pick up valuable Ryder Cup points at Royal Lytham (unlike the U.S. team, which awards points for top-10 finishes, the European team uses an earnings table). Langer’s tie for third moved him up the Ryder Cup table, too. He leapt from 20th to 14th. He has six top 10s around the world since March, and believes he has made a strong case for one of captain Sam Torrance’s two wild-card picks.

“I hope this sends Sam (Torrance) another message after my performance in Memphis (where he finished second at the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic),” said Langer. “I was best European in the Masters. I was second best in this major, and I was best in the fifth major, which is the TPC. So I was very much at the top of European golf in three of the biggest events we have played this year.”

Torrance doesn’t have a lot of options, and needs some of Europe’s more experienced players who are outside the top 10 to play their way in. The general consensus is that he will have to use his two wild-card picks on Jesper Parnevik and Sergio Garcia, who are playing on the PGA Tour. Langer hopes his recent performances change Torrance’s thinking.

“I’ve had other good performances this year, so hopefully he will consider me if I don’t make my way straight in,” Langer said. “I understand that other guys are playing very well, but with my current form I believe I should be there. It’s a difficult situation, and I have not many tournaments to go.”

The biggest “disappointment” for Europe was the play of Garcia and Parnevik in the final round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Garcia started the day two strokes behind the leaders but shot 70 to finish ninth. He actually lost ground on the points table, slipping from 17th to 18th. Parnevik finished tied with Garcia, but is still well outside the top 10, in 34th spot. He’s probably going to have to rely on a captain’s pick.

Jiménez’s third-place finish moved him from 21st on the points table to 16th, one spot ahead of José Maria Olazábal, who dropped from 13th.

There are eight more European tournaments before Torrance’s team is finalized, and he will be doing a lot of calculating over the next eight weeks.

No doubt Woosnam, too, will be doing a lot of thinking, possibly about what might have been.

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