High up in the Swiss Alps Jose Maria Olazabal says he is confident that Europe's stars will "peak at the right times" as the year-long race for Ryder Cup places starts this week.

The Omega European Masters is the first qualifying event of a battle to see which 12 players defend the trophy under Olazabal's captaincy at Medinah in Chicago on 28-30 September next year.

Half of last October's winning side at Celtic Manor - Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Miguel Angel Jimenez and brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari - are at Crans-sur-Sierre.

But they are not the only ones from that team involved right from the kick-off. With world ranking points deciding five places Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington will be hoping the FedEx Cup play-offs in America provide them with fast starts too.

Olazabal told the European Tour website: "I'm excited that the qualification period is starting and it will be interesting to see how the players perform and how it develops over the next year.

"It is going to be very difficult to make the team - to be one of the top five on the European points list or the world points list is going to be tough.

"The players will have to play really well to make it and I am sure they are preparing themselves to peak at the right times so that we can have the best chance to win.

"We know that we will have a tough battle in Chicago next year, but if the boys keep on playing the way that they have been for the last couple of years then I think we will have a good chance."