REUTERS: England’s Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium were named by captain Jose Maria Olazabal on Monday as Europe’s two wildcard picks for next month’s Ryder Cup.
World number 26 Poulter and 35th-ranked Colsaerts join 10 automatic selections in the 12-man team for holders Europe for the September 28-30 match against the United States at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois.
“Every one of you pretty much guessed Ian was going to be there. That was not a difficult pick because he has a great Ryder Cup record and he’s playing well,” Olazabal told a news conference at Gleneagles, Scotland.
“He had some issues earlier this season when he got ill and couldn’t play as much as he wanted. But his attitude and his spirit in the Ryder Cup has always been great and he is a player that likes to be in that environment.
“It gets the best out of him. At Valhalla in 2008 and at Celtic Manor in 2010 you didn’t need to motivate him. Just by looking into his eyes you could tell he was going to give everything he had,” added Olazabal, an assistant captain in the last two editions of the biennial team event.
The 29-year-old Colsaerts, one of the longest hitters on the tour, will become the first Belgian to play in the Ryder Cup.
“Nicolas is going to be the only rookie in an experienced team but his match play record is very good - he won the World Match Play Championship in Spain this year,” said Spaniard Olazabal.
“He has had a very solid season and on top of that he has made the extra effort to try and get in the team - that showed me he wants to be a part of it.
“Nicolas has shown a lot of heart, a lot of character, and I think he has got the game and the desire to do well. It’s also a long course at Medinah and he can take advantage of that, he will be suited to it.”
There was no place in the team for triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who failed to qualify for this year’s World Golf Championship tournaments, the events that are one rung down from the four majors.
“I talked to the next few guys on the points list - David Lynn, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Alvaro Quiros and Padraig,” said Olazabal.
“I made those phone calls and it wasn’t easy. They were disappointed not to make the team but they all took my decision well. Padraig played well at the U.S. Masters, finishing eighth, he also had a good U.S. Open (fourth) and a good Irish Open (seventh) but he is 19th on the points list and he was just a little bit too far down.
“I know he’s a great player and I would have loved to have him in the team, in the same way I’d have loved to have Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson - but you need to be playing well too,” said the Spaniard.
Olazabal believes the Europeans and the Americans, captained by Davis Love III, will be evenly matched at Medinah.
“Both teams are strong and I don’t see that there is a favourite,” he said. “But the support of the home crowd will be massive to the U.S. They will also set up the course the way they want and we are going to have to play really well to have a chance to win.
“The atmosphere will be electrifying so I need to prepare my players for that and make sure they don’t allow themselves to be bothered by it,” said Olazabal. “Luckily the guys have the experience to make that easier. We are playing great opponents but anything can happen.”
Europe won 14 1/2-13 1/2 in the previous edition at Celtic Manor, Wales.
Full European team: Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Justin Rose (England), Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland), Paul Lawrie (Scotland), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Luke Donald (England), Lee Westwood (England), Sergio Garcia (Spain), Peter Hanson (Sweden), Martin Kaymer (Germany), Ian Poulter (England), Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium) (Editing by John O’Brien)