The Ryder Cup teams are beginning to come into focus with European captain Jose Maria Olazabal finalizing his team on Monday. Olazabal had to make two captain’s choices in addition to the 10 automatic qualifiers. He chose rookie Nicolas Colsaerts and Englishman Ian Poulter to join Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hanson, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari and Paul Lawrie.
Olazabal has said all along that he wanted players to make the team based on their own merit and the general consensus has been that his choices are directly in line with that plan. There was some question as to whether or not veteran Padraig Harrington would make the cut as a captain’s selection, but those in the know were convinced he would not be selected.
Bernard Gallacher, a former captain of the Euro side, said that “Jose Maria has gone straight down the points list – those that are playing good golf have been selected and Harrington was just too far down.”
This is an incredibly strong European team that is likely to give the United States team a run for their money. The Americans have only won two of the last eight Ryder Cup showdowns, with their last win coming in 2008 at Valhalla. There have been many occasions where they have simply been manhandled by the European side, including back to back 18 ½ – 9 ½ defeats in 2004 and 2006.
American captain Davis Love III is hoping that his team’s fortunes begin to turn around starting in 2012. He has implemented some changes in the selection process by getting four picks and moved the selection date back. This has basically set up a playoff for the final four spots. The top eight in the points standings have already solidified their spot on the team, and those names include Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. The next four in line in terms of points are Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.
Love seems to have settled on Mahan, Stricker and Furyk, leaving only one spot up for grabs. That will likely go to either Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Bo Van Pelt on Dustin Johnson. I will be curious to see whether he stays in line with the points or takes a flyer on someone he has a gut feeling about.
No matter what, when the Ryder Cup comes to Medinah at the end of September, it is destined to be chock full of story lines and entertainment.