Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts named Europe's Ryder Cup wildcards

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Offline angsta

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Should be a good weekend. I am guessing the sports bar will be all over this at the end of September? Always nice to see the sepo's get a spanking.

Nicolas Colsaerts is to become the first Belgian to play in the Ryder Cup – and the only uncapped player in Europe's side next month.

To nobody's surprise Ian Poulter was also handed a wildcard by José María Olazábal at Gleneagles on Monday and Padraig Harrington, a member of the past six Europe sides, was left out.

While Harrington has won only two of his last 13 cup games Poulter has won seven of pis last eight and Olazábal has rewarded the two players who came closest to making the team on points.

Poulter finished 11th in the table and Colsaerts 12th. Harrington was down in 19th place.

Until Sergio García won in America last Monday Poulter was in position to qualify and Colsaerts, winner of the Volvo World Match Play title in Spain in May, would have made it with a closing 66 in the Johnnie Walker Championship on Sunday.

The 29-year-old from Brussels, who only three years ago stood 1,305th in the world, shot 72, but Olazábal had seen enough.

For the match at Medinah in Chicago on 28-30 September Europe will parade eight of the side that won by a single point at Celtic Manor two years ago – Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, the match-winner Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer.

Justin Rose and García are back after failing to keep their places last time and the 43-year-old Paul Lawrie earns his second cap a remarkable 13 years after his first.

Olazábal could have become the first captain on either side to lead out a team without a single debutant in it since the very first contest in 1927.

But the three-times major winner Harrington, given a wildcard by Colin Montgomerie two years ago, has failed to make it despite finishing eighth in the Masters and fourth in the US Open this season.

Olazábal insisted his decision would have nothing to do with a dispute he had with the Dubliner nine years ago, but it made life a lot easier for him when Harrington fell out of contention at the Barclays tournament in New York at the weekend.

Before this year Colsaerts had played in only two majors and missed the cut in both of them, but in coming seventh at the Open last month he started and finished with rounds of 65.

The Match Play victory was the big one, though. He beat three of his new team-mates – Rose, Lawrie and then in the final McDowell – as well as the American Brandt Snedeker to succeed Poulter as champion.

He is the biggest hitter in European golf and that also played its part in Olazábal's decision after his visit to Medinah two weeks ago.

"Everyone of you guessed Ian was going to be there for obvious reasons," Olazábal said. "He has a great Ryder Cup record, he was playing well – he had some issues earlier in the season, he got ill and he couldn't play as much but he is cured and his attitude and spirit in the Ryder Cup team has always been great. He likes to be in that situation, it gets the best out of him playing the Ryder Cup."

Poulter said: "I am absolutely thrilled to have got the call last night from José. It was a great moment."

Colsaerts added: "This is something I have wanted since I was a little kid, to be a part of such a big team with a captain with such great history. It is something I am very proud of. I am living proof that if you want something badly it is only a matter of time if you put the work in. It's a bit of a fairy story."

Olazábal dismissed any suggestion that picking the uncapped Colsaerts represented a gamble. He said: "If you look at my team we do have a huge amount of experience, out of the 12 players, 11 have played Ryder Cup. They've proven they can handle the pressure, they have that experience. We have a very solid team in that regard.

"I don't think its a gamble. When you look at the next guys on the line, the next guy with Ryder Cup experience would have been Thomas Bjorn. I don't think it's going to be a gamble in that regard. The guy has shown a lot of heart, a lot of character."

Moreover, Olazábal believes Colsaerts' game will be perfectly suited for the Medinah course. "Medinah Country Club is a long course," he said. "They built two or three new tees and made 15 a reachable par four. Length can be a factor. At the end of the day we all know the important thing is how many putts you make. His game is suited for that golf course."

The Spaniard admitted it was tough informing the players who had missed out. "It's never an easy decision," he said. "I talked to the vice-captains quite a bit regarding the picks. We studied different possibilities.

"It's not an easy moment. They are all disappointed. I know they really wanted to be in the team. I talked to the next four or five guys on the list – I talked to David [Lynn], to Rafa [Cabrera Bello], Alvaro [Quirós] and Padraig [Harrington]. I made those phone calls. It's not easy. I've been in that equation. They took the news well. That's the way it is."

Asked when he made his mind up, he replied: "It was made up yesterday. David still had a chance [of an automatic spot] if he finished in the top two [in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles]. I had to wait until the last minute."

There have been concerns over the form of Germany's Kaymer – an automatic qualifier – heading into the event, but Olazábal's mind was put at ease by a chat with the former world No1 on Sunday.

"Don't be mistaken – he wants to be part of that team. He's determined to give his best. I don't think I'm going to have any issues regarding Martin."

Europe have won four of the last five Ryder Cups, including the last time out at Celtic Manor, but Olazábal insists he does not see his side as favourites heading in next month's competition and believes they will need to play "very very well" to retain their crown.

He said: "I've always said that I don't see any favourites in this Ryder Cup, both teams are playing very strong. The US team is always strong, they've played great, they won the Masters this year, the US Open, they've won a bunch of tournaments, three rookies in that team so far have played extraordinarily well.

"They have the home advantage, they are going to set up the course to their liking, and we are going to have play really very very well and with heart if we are going to have a chance to win."

The Guardian.
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