/ Golf

Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts puts himself in Ryder Cup contention with solid opening round at the Johnnie Walker Championship

Updated: Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 19:49 | Comments

Nicolas Colsaerts needs a top-two finish to earn himself a cup debut and is two off the lead Brett Rumford shares the lead with Knut Borsheim
Nicolas Colsaerts needs a top-two finish to earn himself a cup debut and is two off the lead Brett Rumford shares the lead with Knut Borsheim

Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal gave an instant reaction in Scotland tonight to Padraig Harrington scoring a 64 in America - and it should leave the Irishman in no doubt where he stands.

The Irish star is fighting to be among the candidates for a wild card on Monday.

Olazabal was reminded that two weeks ago he said Harrington needed to do something extraordinary to make the side.

So what now constitutes extraordinary? "At least a win," Olazabal replied with a smile.

He was speaking at Gleneagles, where Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts needs a top-two finish to earn himself a cup debut and is two off the lead following an opening three-under-par 69.

Australian Brett Rumford and little-known Norwegian Knut Borsheim set the pace at Gleneagles - and they played together as they each shot 67.

Gareth Maybin finished on two under (70) and Michael Hoey shot 71.

Peter Lawrie finished on level par 72, while Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton finished on plus one. Darren Clarke shot a 75.

Colsaerts, thought to be in with a great chance of being picked along with Ian Poulter if he fails in his bid for an automatic spot in the Johnnie Walker Championship, was delighted with his day's work.

"It was exactly the day I wanted, being in control of what I was doing," the 29-year-old Volvo World Match Play champion said.

"I'm very pleased with how I handled myself."

He also pleased watching Ryder Cup assistant captain Thomas Bjorn, who was paired with him for the first two rounds and kicked off his defence of the title with a 70.

"I can see what he's capable of," Bjorn said. "I don't think it comes as a surprise - I think we all know what Nicolas can do.

"He needs to keep doing what he's doing and get a good week out of it. He's in good form and you can see that his confidence is high.

"Even when he gets himself in trouble he gets out of it decent and that's the sign of somebody that has all the things at the moment going in the right direction."

On Colsaerts' round, Olazabal said: "It's a solid start. He still has work to do and we will see what he does."

He also commented on the absence from the event of Martin Kaymer, who is under threat at 10th in the points table, but opened the door to Colsaerts by taking the week off.

Should the German drop into a position where he too requires a wild card, Olazabal insists he will not hold it against him that he missed the final week of the race.

"It won't count against him. I've always made that clear."

Rumford and Borsheim go into the second round one ahead of a group which includes Scot Paul Lawrie and Italian Francesco Molinari, the only two players in the field who already know they will be facing the Americans in Chicago next month.

Colsaerts had an early bogey, but then produced five birdies in seven holes around the turn and also sank a 20-foot putt for par during that run.

He led on his own for a while, but missed a three-foot par putt at the seventh - his 15th - and could not add to his birdie tally in the last eight holes.

As for Harrington, who came home in 29 to set the early pace at The Barclays, he said: "I've been playing well for quite a while, but this is the best I've putted.

"I don't want to go in there and try too desperately to beg for a pick. I'll just leave it be what it is - I'm just going to play golf."

His fans will point out that the world number 61 is competing against a field containing 23 of the world's top 25, while 33rd-ranked Colsaerts does not have any of the game's top 25 with him at Gleneagles.

If the three-major winner was to win and still not receive a wild card the incident between him and Olazabal at the 2003 Seve Trophy in Spain is bound to be brought up. In fact, it already has been in recent weeks.

Olazabal felt his integrity was impugned when Harrington queried his repairing of pitch marks on a green. He conceded the hole and at the end of the match they had a lengthy face-to-face by the 18th green.

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use