Olazabal chooses Poulter and Colsaerts


Golf:European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal has named Nicolas Colsaerts and Ian Poulter as his two wild card picks for the match against United States at Medinah, Chicago from September 28th-30th.

Nicolas Colsaerts will become the first Belgian to play in the Ryder Cup and is the only uncapped player in Europe’s side next month. To nobody’s surprise Ian Poulter was also handed a wild card by captain, Jose Maria Olazabal at Gleneagles today and Padraig Harrington, a member of the last six sides, was left out.

While Harrington has won only two of his last 13 cup games Poulter has won seven of his last eight and Olazabal has rewarded the two players who came closest to making the team on points: Poulter finished 11th in the list, Colsaerts 12th with Harrington down in 19th place.

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

For the match at Medinah in Chicago on September 28th-30th 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, match-winner Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer.

Justin Rose and Garcia are back after failing to keep their places last time and 43-year-old Paul Lawrie earns his second cap a remarkable 13 years after his first. Olazabal 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 three-major winner Harrington, given a wild card 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.

Olazabal 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 this weekend.

Prior to 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 American Brandt Snedeker to succeed Poulter as champion. He is the biggest-hitter in European golf and that also played its part in Olazabal’s decision after his visit to Medinah two weeks ago.

Olazabal admitted it was tough informing the players who had missed out. “It’s never an easy decision. Obviously there’s a few more players in the mix every time. I talked to the vice-captains quite a bit regarding the picks. We studied different possibilities. We had a few discussions regarding that. The last time we talked was on Friday this week.

“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 (Quiros) 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.

“I talked to him last night and I was very straight to the point. I know he tried hard, he played well at The Masters, he had a good US Open and the following week he had a great Irish Open, but he was 19th on the list,he was just a little down the list.

"I know he’s a great player; I would’ve loved to have him in the team, the same way I would have loved to have Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson...great players, but you need to be playing good, simple as that. Ithink he took it well.”

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 and the decision was made last night.”

Olazabal 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. It depends how the golf course is set up regarding rough but it’s a long course and I think he can take advantage of that.”

There have been concerns over the form of Germany’s Martin Kaymer — an automatic qualifier — heading into the event, but Olazabal’s mind was put at ease by a chat with the former world number one yesterday.

“I talked to Martin yesterday,” the Spaniard said. “We had a chat on the phone. He’s been working really hard the last two weeks after the PGA Championship. He’s very happy with the work he’s put in and the results on the driving range. He’s going to play in Holland and Italy and we’ll have a pretty good idea on how his game is.

“Don’t be mistaken — he wants to be part of that team. He’s determined to give his best. He made that point very clear to me yesterday. I don’t think I’m going to have any issues regarding Martin.”

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