From Brian Keogh in Cologne
Ireland's bid to find two players to tee it up in November's Omega Mission Hills World Cup is becoming a magical mystery tour.
The European Tour’s entries department officially confirmed yesterday that Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Gary Murphy and Damien McGrane are unavailable for selection.
And that means that the search continues to find a pair will to travel to Aruba in the Caribbean for the international qualifier from 17-20 September.
The European Tour has clarified Ireland’s situation, pointing out that with entries for the qualifying tournament in Malaysia closed since September 3, Ireland must now enter a team for the Aruba qualifier before Thursday, September 20 or kiss the 2007 World Cup goodbye.
McGrane reluctantly gave the event the thumbs down early yesterday, explaining: "I was stewing on the idea but I have some corporate commitments that week that took me all summer to organise and it would be a disaster to cancel them at this late stage."
The ball is now in the court of Ireland's lesser lights with a large number of players in the Horizon Sports Management stable of Dubliner Conor Ridge next in line.
The pecking order is based on the world rankings issued on September 3 with Colm Moriarty (432nd) and David Higgins (464th) getting first choice.
Ranked 26th on the Challenge Tour rankings, Moriarty is fighting to earn one of 20 tour cards through that route while Higgins needs a big finish in one of the season-ending events on the main tour to regain full playing rights
Higgins said: "I haven't even thought about the World Cup. I would be delighted to play if I got the opportunity but it is terrible timing. There are other things I have to take care of first.
"It is an awkward one for everyone and just a case of sitting down and seeing what the best thing to do is.
"Sean Quinn was kind enough to give me an invite to the British Masters next week and that is what I have to focus on at the moment."
If Higgins and Moriarty can't play, Belfast's Michael Hoey (561st) and Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin (694th) are next in line.
Hoey can also make his card through the Challenge Tour rankings and would be forced to make the 8,000-mile trip from next week's Kazakhstan Open to the Caribbean to tee it up in the qualifier.
Stephen Browne is also a possibility at 708th in the rankings but it is unlikely that Rory McIlroy (877th) would be willing to make the trip with the final day of the European Tour Qualifying School coming two days before the start of the World Cup proper.
It then falls to Derry's Michael McGeady (884th), US-based Keith Nolan (895th), former Irish PGA winner David Mortimer (1,113th) and Donegal's Brian McElhinney (1,265th) or Ireland will miss the World Cup.