He's in, he's out, he's in, he's out.
The Ryder Cup selection process often resembles something of a golfing Hokey Cokey, minus the bent knees, the stretched arms and the hysterical cries of Rah Rah Rah. There had been plenty of hoo ha, however, in the build-up to Jose Maria Olazabal's announcement of his wildcards for next month's clash of the transatlantic titans in Chicago. Thank goodness, then, that the tin lid has been put on this particular chapter in a long-running story.
By naming Ian Poulter, who has seven wins from his last eight cup matches, and debutant Nicolas Colsaerts as the final two members of the 12-strong line up in the opulent surroundings of the Gleneagles Hotel yesterday, Europe's Spanish captain did exactly what all and sundry were expecting. Even the lion that's supposed to be shuffling around Essex knew this was coming.
Loading article content
There may be roars of disapproval emanating from the Emerald Isle over the omission of the triple major champion Padraig Harrington but there was only ever going to be one outcome. Unlike any other golf event, the Ryder Cup attracts endless and ultimately pointless conjecture as the build-up to this increasingly fraught biennial battle intensifies. Mercifully, the speculation, the wild predictions and the rumours can now cease.
The Europe team has been chiselled down in stone and we can all look forward to the actual contest swinging into action. The shenanigans at Gleneagles last week, simply summed up this media frenzy. You had reporters at the Johnnie Walker Championship, the final counting event over the PGA Centenary course, writing more about what was going on in New York as Harrington mounted his last-ditch bid for a spot in Team Europe at The Barclays. Equally, you had journalists typing themselves into a fankle in the Big Apple as the focus shifted back to events in Perthshire. Amid all of this to-ing and fro-ing, there was the calm, collected figure of Colsaerts, the one man who could have earned the final automatic place by finishing in the top two in the Johnnie Walker contest. Every day, he was surrounded by a salivating press pack and, like suckling piglets huddled around a complying sow, we milked the Belgian dry. And every day, it was the same questions. "What are your Ryder Cup chances now?", "Have you had any conversations with Olazabal?", "Are you, like us, being driven round the twist by this relentless probing?" Thankfully, the inquisition is now over for this likeable son of Brussels and he can at last look forward to the Ryder Cup debut that he has "wanted since I was a little kid".
He certainly deserves it, having played nine of the last 10 weeks in a spirited effort to barge his way into the team without the need for a captain's pick. He may have ultimately missed out on that automatic berth but 10 top-10 finishes during the qualifying campaign, including a win in the World Matchplay Championship, where he beat fellow Europe team members Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie and Graeme McDowell en route to victory, bolstered that bid.
Seasoned analysts of the contest may argue that a wildcard pick shouldn't go to a Ryder Cup rookie when the match is being staged in the backyard of the Americans but, when you have 11 other players with at least one Ryder Cup appearance under their belts, there is plenty of scope for the inclusion of a raw recruit. There are only four members of Europe's team who haven't played a Ryder Cup on US soil and two of those, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, have conquered in the majors over there.
Colsaerts will bring a considerable dose of fresh-faced, wide-eyed enthusiasm to the fold – "I'm just looking forward to team meetings and listening to what's being said," he said rather humbly – and, on a rigorous Medinah course that favours the big hitters, Olazabal now possesses the heavy artillery of the European Tour's longest ball striker.
Harrington, meanwhile, can have no complaints. Yes, he has shown flashes of a return to his former majesty, with a share of eighth in the Masters and a fourth at the US Open, and he has the valuable experience of being a member of the last six Ryder Cup teams. Yet, a record of two wins from his last 13 cup ties does little to back up his claim and, at 19th on the final qualifying list, he was simply, as Olazabal suggested, "a little bit down the list".
With Team Europe now ready to go, the attention will shift to what Davis Love III, the US captain, does next week. His four wildcards were looking like a largely straight forward choice of Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk. But that was before Nick Watney beat 23 of the world's top 25 to win The Barclays on Sunday to bolster his credentials. Brandt Snedeker, who finished second, and a fit-again Dustin Johnson, who shared third, also threw their hats back into the ring.
At least for Olazabal, the Ryder Cup Hokey Cokey is over and the focus can move to the match. That's what it's all about, after all.