A total of 31 European Tour Members are eligible, but with the withdrawal of Thomas Björn through a shoulder injury and Retief Goosen after a jet ski injury, some 29 Members will tee up in Ohio.
Much of the focus will be on the European Ryder Cup race. Under the new qualification system adopted for the first time for The 35th Ryder Cup Matches, to be played ay Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Township, Michigan, the leading five players from the World Points List after the WGC – NEC Invitational will qualify for the European Team.
The five players currently in the frame through the World Points List are, in order, Padriag Harrington of Ireland, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain and Lee Westwood of England.
That leaves Swede Fredrik Jacobson, sixth in the World Points List and 12th in the European Points List as the leading challenger gunning for a place in Bernhard Langer’s European Team.
England’s Luke Donald, currently tenth in the World Points List, can also force his way into the team via this route but needs to finish at least tied second with one other player or better.
The battle for places through the European Points List is also coming down to the wire and with the English duo of David Howell and Ian Poulter ineligible for the WGC – NEC Invitational, there is a chance for some of the other runners to steal a march on them before the final counting event in Germany.
Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy is one place outside the qualifying spots, but like Howell and Poulter, is ineligible for the WGC – NEC Invitational, opening the door to Joakim Haeggman of Sweden, who dropped out of the last qualifying place after the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin. A good week could put Haeggman back on course for a second Ryder Cup cap.
Clarke goes into his defence of the WGC – NEC Invitational on the back of a strong week in Wisconsin where he challenged throughout until falling away over the closing holes. Twelve months ago he struck a huge blow for European golf with a stunning victory to become the first player, after Tiger Woods, to win more than one WGC event following his previous victory in the WGC – Accenture Match Play.
Woods remains one of the favourites having won three of the previous four championships to be held at Firestone Country Club. He has won nine WGC events in total, amassing €10,243,333 in 15 events.