Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie says he'll be keeping a close eye on this week's 2 million-euro European Masters, despite having pulled out of the event due to fatigue.
The 46-year-old holds the tournament record for the lowest aggregate score after carding 260 en route to victory in 1996 but will assume a watching brief for this year's competition, which is the first qualifying event for next year's Ryder Cup.
"I feel I need a week to recharge my batteries," said Montgomerie after his 31st-place finish in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
"It has been a demanding three-week spell recently with travel to the United States and the Netherlands and now here in my role as championship chairman.
"I have been watching more golf recently than I've ever done in the past and that will continue to be the case next week when I will avidly tune in to all the coverage as the race for Ryder Cup points kicks off."
Some of Europe's biggest names will be out in force as they seek to pick up the points that could lead to a place in Montgomerie's team for Celtic Manor.
Four of Europe's 2008 team will be present in the form of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson, while 20-year-old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy will hope to go one better than his playoff defeat to France's Jean-Francois Lucquin at last year's event.
The tournament, which starts today, is already set to make history as the first event on European soil to be jointly sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
India's Jeev Milkha Singh and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, the reigning and current Asian Tour Order of Merit No 1s, will spearhead Asia's challenge at the Alpine resort.
Yang Yong-eun became the first Asian player to win a Major when he stunned world No 1 Tiger Woods at the US PGA Championship three weeks ago and Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han expects the Korean's feat to have a big impact on Asian golf.
"We believe there are many more talented Asian Tour stars who have the ability, potential and desire to become major champions in the near future," he said.
"All our top players are gathered at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club and they will be inspired by Yang's victory over Tiger."
(AFP via China Daily September 3, 2009)