Golf: Coltart the surprise card in Ryder Cup team

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ANDREW COLTART'S disappointment at missing out on an automatic spot on the European Ryder Cup team at the BMW International lasted only the length of his flight from Munich to Heathrow when he found out the captain Mark James had named him as one of his wild cards.

James added Jesper Parnevik, as expected, and the 29-year-old Scot, a seventh rookie, instead of the experienced Bernhard Langer to the team once the 10 qualifiers were completed with Open runner-up Jean Van de Velde and Padraig Harrington.

The 27-year-old Irishman finished second for the second week running and jumped from 13th at the start of the tournament. Harrington, after a 72, maintained his overnight position to finish three behind Colin Montgomerie on a day when a number of the contenders showed tremendous courage in an attempt to make the team. None was braver than Sweden's Robert Karlsson, who ended up the most unlucky after closing with a 65 to finished tied for 10th. Karlsson dropped down from 10th place on the Cup rankings to 11th, only 434 points (or pounds 31,000) behind Harrington but 110 points (or pounds 7,800) ahead of Coltart.

Coltart also closed strongly, with a 66 to tie for fifth place, his best finish in the last two months, the period on which James based his selection. Langer, the veteran of nine Ryder Cups, finished 15th but has failed to record a top-10 in the last two months as opposed to Coltart's two.

"It was a desperately difficult decision," said James. "All three, Coltart, Karlsson and Langer, were very close. Bernhard has been a rock of the European team for many years but his form since the US Open has not been so good. I was gutted to have to tell Robert he was not in the team but I think Andrew has played the best since the US Open."

Coltart's wife Emma is due to give birth seven days before the team flies to Boston on 20 September. "Now it can be a double celebration," Coltart said. "I'm surprised but delighted. It makes all the hard work over the last 10 weeks worthwhile."

James has backed up his recent statements that he has "too much respect for the young players" to overlook them in his wild card thinking and that "in my experience, experience is over-rated". Coltart has only one win in seven years on tour but performed strongly for Scotland in the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews.

But with six rookies on the team already, it appeared some veteran know- how of a unique occasion was required. For the first time since before Nick Faldo made his debut in 1977, Europe will be without any of the quintet of great golfers - Faldo, Ballesteros, Langer, Lyle and Woosnam - who helped win the Cup four times in the last seven matches.

Faldo and Woosnam, both outside the top 30, finished too far down the points list to be considered but Langer was 14th and, turning to the pairings, has always been compatible with other partners and could have continued a potent combination with Montgomerie.

James said: "It is an excellent team. It is balanced, with a good mix of different type of players and characters. I think they will all be able to play under pressure."

Harrington, the former Irish World Cup winner, did just that despite starting the final round with two bogeys and a double in his first four holes. His comfortable overnight cushion of five strokes ahead of third place had disappeared.

Over the last 10 holes, however, the former Walker Cup player was four under, including an eagle at the 11th and a birdie at the 16th. He could not relax even at the last, where he drove into rough, had to lay up and then put his third left of the green. Harrington's short game makes him a doughty matchplay opponent and it stood up to the challenge as he chipped to 10 feet and holed the putt.

As it turned out a tie for second place with Jarrod Moseley, the Australian, would have been enough but the important point is that Harrington believed he needed the par-five to make the team. "It helped that I had holed putts to finish second at the Italian Open and last week in Ireland," Harrington said.

"I was defensive down the last, as I was at the beginning. I was listening to the roars of the crowd to start with. The double bogey at the fourth was devastating. I was low but I knew I had to keep my head up, play my own game and start enjoying it. I was good when I needed to be but terrible when I didn't."

Harrington's poor start opened the door for not just Karlsson and Coltart. Even James still had a chance, although his 70 eventually left him tied for fifth. Had he qualified, he finally revealed, he would have played. One of James's assistants, Ken Brown, the former Ryder Cup player who now works for Sky TV, would have taken over the captaincy.

Briefly, John Bickerton looked as if he might gain the victory he needed when his fourth birdie in six holes at the 10th put him only two behind Montgomerie. The Scot admitted getting caught up in Harrington's troubles on the front nine, but the Scot came home in 33 to claim his fifth victory of the season just a fortnight after his last in Sweden. He was already assured of finishing as the leading qualifier for the fourth successive time but his winner's prize of pounds 141,000 took him past the pounds 1m mark on the order of merit for the first time.


Age Cups Matches Won Halved Lost Ranking

Darren Clarke 30 1 2 1 0 1 17

Andrew Coltart 29 0 - - - - 71

Sergio Garcia 19 0 - - - - 31

Padraig Harrington 27 0 - - - - 94

Miguel Angel Jimenez 35 0 - - - - 35

Paul Lawrie 30 0 - - - - 47

Colin Montgomerie 36 4 18 9 3 6 4

Jose Maria Olazabal 33 5 25 14 3 8 21

Jesper Parnevik 34 1 4 1 2 1 16

Jarmo Sandelin 32 0 - - - - 63

Jean Van de Velde 33 0 - - - - 86

Lee Westwood 26 1 5 2 0 3 5

Total 30 (ave) 12 54 27 8 19 -