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Lure of the Ryder Cup draws Ian Poulter and Paul Casey back to Europe

Ian Poulter, left, and Paul Casey are both hoping to make this year's European Ryder Cup team. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

WENTWORTH, U.K. -- As Paul Casey recovers from a troublesome back and Ian Poulter hopes to continue his impressive run of form, the two Ryder Cup hopefuls have divided attention as they spoke ahead of this week's BMW PGA Championship.

Those are clouding their own radar, but then hovering on the horizon is Paris and the 2018 Ryder Cup. On Wednesday, captain Thomas Bjorn unveiled his vice-captains and used the opportunity to remind hopefuls what characteristics he is looking for as he weighs up his 12-man team.

"I'm a strong believer in form, [and it] is a very key thing for the Ryder Cup," Björn said. "I believe that people that play well from Wentworth all the way through to when the Ryder Cup matches start, they should be in that team."

Poulter, who was vice-captain in 2016, gave three bullet-point reasons for his return to form, which saw him win the Houston Open last month, his first competition triumph since 2012. "Hard work, determination, Ryder Cup," he answered, barely pausing to think.

Poulter's career is inextricably intertwined with the famous competition, with his name forever linked with Miracle of Medinah as one of the main protagonists in that charge for Europe's victory.

But as they faltered at Hazeltine last time around, Poulter watched on, frustrated. "It was great from an experience standpoint, but there's nothing like playing." Poulter is back on the European Tour and is hopeful of securing automatic qualification to the Ryder Cup team through the World Points list, currently lying just one place off that target.

With the Rolex Series now carrying the weight of 1.5 times the usual number of points on offer -- brought in to help ensure automatic qualifiers were hitting form at the right time -- this week's competition at Wentworth offers hopefuls the first chance to take advantage of the increased weighting on the European Tour.

The stipulation that hopefuls must be a European Tour member drew Casey, 40, back with his last appearance in the Ryder Cup 10 years ago in 2008. He is currently nursing a back injury that kept him out of the Players Championship, but he's quietly optimistic it will hold together as he starts his charge to securing a spot for Paris.

Alongside hitting the compulsory targets for Ryder Cup inclusion, Casey has previously spoken of his pain at watching Europe lose to the United States at Hazeltine, and how time and age are now against him as motivating factors. As he spoke of the Ryder Cup, a stream of consciousness followed.

"It [playing in the Ryder Cup] is always one of the big goals that I've written down, but it's compartmentalisation," Casey said. "It's taking care of this week. It's taking care of every single week, and that's the by-product; making the team is the by-product of doing my job correctly, doing my job well.

"Having played in a few and having tried to qualify for many, I'm acutely aware of how to do it and how not to do it, and the years I did it well were the years I didn't focus on the outcome and focused on every week trying to play well and win.

"Early in that process, when I got obsessed about it -- and even at my age, it's still such a big deal, having played them. I mean, it's why, you know, why I'm doing this. I want to be on that team. I want to contribute to Europe and win that Cup back, plain and simple, and I believe I can be a big part of that. But I have to ..."

At this point, the press officer interrupted; a Facebook live question had come in. A brief laugh followed, as he refocused on Wentworth and his back injury while seeking to allay any concerns from captain Björn over his condition.

"I'm not worried. Björn looked worried yet, but there's no worry," Casey said. "It's just frustration, that's all it is, which is why I am excited and, touch wood, go hit some golf balls after we're finished here, and there's no pain, and we just crack on and get on with it."

While Casey's words ran away with him as he assessed the dilemma of the Ryder Cup and the here and now, Poulter spoke calmer about it, married with a gravitas and calmness of one who knows he has already done his bit for the famous competition. But he wants the trophy back on home soil.

He saw the vice-captains being named Tuesday, and he wants to be in the thick of it when Paris ticks around. His journey continues at Wentworth, and he plans to then play at the Italian Open in Brescia next week and then take in the Open, the US PGA and other assorted tournaments. But interspersed with these were frequent mentions of taking time off to sleep. He's done this before. He knows, like their captain Björn, the importance of form.

"You know, to make the team is important," Poulter said. "For me to be fresh by getting there, I think is also very important. So that's the big-picture plan, and hopefully it goes to plan.

"I've got quite a bit of motivation to make that team again. I think Paris will be a fantastic Ryder Cup. I think the venue's good. I think the team already is shaping up to be very strong.

"For me, to put myself in a position to be close now, and to have a big push this summer to try and make sure I make that team, it would be great. I'm looking forward to the challenge."