At the time when a wall that separated peoples according to a political ideology divided Europe into east and west, the Cejka family lived in Czechoslovakia. They came from a town called Marianska Lazne in the west of the country that was called Marianbad at a time when the Germans referred to the region as the Sudetenland. It was a place older and more Germanic than lederhosen, lager and louts and, because it was a Spa town attracting the idle rich, Edward VII insisted, in 1902, that it should have a golf course. His cousin, Kaiser Willie, not to be outdone, had another course built at Carlsbad (Karlova Vary) nearby. Despite the best efforts of the political administrators throughout the Cold War years, these golf courses survived and produced some very fine golfers.
Like many others, the Cejka family managed to cross the Wall and the political divide to make a better life for themselves in Germany. Alex Cejka was already an able young player when he arrived in the west where his talent blossomed on the lesser German courses. It flowered some more when he migrated again to the much superior lucrative courses of the USPGA Tour.
In view of last weekend's surprising result at the International event in Colorado, where Cejka took second place, there must be concern abroad that his adopted countryman may be figuring in Bernhard Langer's thoughts. With time ticking out and no European-based player with play that screams for selection, Cejka's eruption of form brings cause for concern. To the very cynical, Cejka's German nationality and his perceived sensibility in choosing to play his golf on the US Tour, make him a possible Captain's wildcard pick. To some, Cejka's stolid Teutonic consistency of play, although never of the top rung, is validation for consideration for a team place. To others, however, Cejka, despite his seasoned play on American courses, is not of Ryder Cup stature. His lowly 83rd place on the US Tour money list would support this contention.
It is hard to believe that Cejka would have been in Langer's thoughts before last weekend's result, but it appears that he may well have been. Cejka confided as much in a press interview when he made it clear that he and Langer had talked and that he expected more than mere consideration for a team place. Needless to say, the American press has made much of this as well as the enthusiastic mutterings of Jasper Parnevick. To many like myself, the thought of including either of these two US Tour minnows is depressing and the possibility of having both in the team is distressing.
Langer is a self-confessed statistics man and it is hard to believe that he would overlook the poor figures that both of these seasoned campaigners have generated to date, despite what their earnings say.
As a 'stats' man, Langer must surely already have pencilled-in Luke Donald's name. Aside from the fact that he has won in Europe, Donald's 'stats' are impressive. He is 25th for driving accuracy, 12th for greens hit in regulation and 13th for scoring average on the US Tour. This all summates to form and class - the sort of quiet class exemplified by a Peter Thomson, rather than the brash class of, say, an Arnold Palmer. I know which of these two venerable gentlemen my money would be on over 172 holes.
Olazabal and Rose must also be at the forefront of Langer's cerebral activity. Although at a lowly 151st place in the World Rankings, Ollie is starting to put a game together again and he has the spirit and experience to contribute to the team. His 'stats' are about average for the Tour and Rose's are not much better, but both are inspirational players who shine in the matchplay arena. Paul McGinley too has burst into the frame with his second place in the Dutch Open and he has proved himself under Ryder Cup pressure.
Colin Montgomerie's name keeps cropping up in Langer's press conferences. It is hard to believe that sentiment will play a part in Langer's pick. Monty indisputably has the class but it is equally certain that he lacks the form. He has the best Ryder Cup record of all the possibles on both sides with 16 wins, seven losses and five halved matches, but that was yesterday.
It would be even more disconcerting if Langer were to find a place for Monty on his backroom staff. Monty can certainly talk the talk but it is a talk that is soporific and induces ennui - everyone, and in particular a Ryder Cup team preparing for battle, should be spared that.
|| 9 - AUGUST 2004