JOSE MARIA Olazabal today appealed to Europe's top stars to go all out to book their Ryder Cup spots – in the next NINE DAYS.
Olazabal will captain his continent in the showdown with the United States for the first time at Medinah at the end of September.
The Spaniard, one of the event's greatest-ever players, is already excited at how his 12-strong team is taking shape.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald all look certain to feature in Illinois.
Now the skipper is hoping the likes of Padraig Harrington, Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood can cement their places in his side.
A lot of Ryder Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the Scottish Open and The Open in the next fortnight. Olazabal would like to see the contenders for his side all feature strongly here at Castle Stuart and at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
The two-time US Masters champion is competing in the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event just outside Inverness this week.
And he confessed he will be scrutinising the displays of his team hopefuls closely in the Highlands and in Lancashire in the coming days.
"There is still some time to go and several events to play before the European team for the Ryder Cup is finalised," he reflected.
"But the stretch of tournaments we have coming up is going to be very important for the players that I want to make the team.
"I have said all along, since I was named captain, that this spell is going to be absolutely crucial in terms of qualification for the Ryder Cup.
"The players who are on the edge of selection, in particular, can go a long way towards securing their team places this week and next week.
"So I am going to be keeping a close eye on the guys who are in contention for the European team to see how they do."
Olazabal admitted he was particularly pleased to see Molinari, a debutant in the biennial event at Celtic Manor in 2010, hit good form.
The Italian, who partnered his brother Edoardo in Colin Montgomerie's side in Wales, finished second in the French Open last weekend.
That performance in Paris propelled the 29-year-old to 10th place in the current team standings – the final automatic selection spot.
Olazabal enthused: "Francesco has a very good chance of qualifying now after doing so well in France."
However, he cautioned: "Francesco needs to continue playing good golf. Nothing is guaranteed for him or any of the other players yet."
Olazabal is renowned as one of the most naturally skilful players the game of golf has ever produced.
In his heyday, few, if any, of his contemporaries could match his short game wizardry and deft putting touch.
The astonishing distances today's top professionals hit the ball off the tee has left the 46-year-old struggling to contend at the highest level.
But he is pleased the Scottish Open has been moved to a links course – and delighted the Irish Open was staged at Royal Portrush last month.
Olazabal feels playing at more seaside courses will help bring creativity back into a game that has become increasingly about raw power in recent years.
He said: "I love playing in these kind of conditions as it requires you to play with a lot of imagination. If the wind gets up, for instance, you have to think far more. For me, it is the essence of golf.
"I don't think creativity is going out of the game completely. You still have to show imagination around the greens on regular tour events. But I am very pleased that the European Tour is now staging more events at links courses. It is great for players to compete on these kind of courses."
He added: "It requires top golfers to play a different kind of game, to envisage how a ball will react, to work out how the ball will bounce and run out."
Olazabal forged arguably the greatest partnership in Ryder Cup history in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He teamed up with countryman and mentor Seve Ballesteros to devastating affect in many memorable meetings with the Americans.
So he is looking forward to returning to Royal Lytham, where the late Ballesteros won the Open in 1979 and 1988.
Olazabal said: "It was his place, without a doubt. He loved that golf course a lot. It will be emotional for me to see the Open back there.
"I was a little kid when Seve won the Open in 1979, his first Major, but I have watched DVDs of it since then. It was a special triumph.
"As, for that matter, was his win there in 1988. I look back on the achievements of my fellow Spaniard with tremendous pride.
"It was amazing the way he played golf, the creativity and imagination that he showed. He also opened a lot of doors for future generations. We owe him a lot."