Casey and Rose left out as Montgomerie takes a punt on inexperience
Monday 30 August 2010
Edoardo Molinari did not simply force his Ryder Cup captain's hand here yesterday; he pulled it behind his back and yanked it up beyond his ear. After watching the Italian birdie the last three holes to win the final qualifying event, Colin Montgomerie felt he had no option but to name him as one of his three wild cards. And, in the process, overlook the world No 9, Paul Casey.
Justin Rose was the other member of the FedEx Four to miss out on a trip to Celtic Manor, as the Europe captain Montgomerie sided with Luke Donald and his old favourite Padraig Harrington. It was tough for Rose, the world No 22, with his two wins in America this year. But the majority of the breathless talk here last night centred on the omission of Casey. And, of course, the irresistible charge of Edoardo, who will now form the first brother partnership in the Ryder Cup in 47 years.
Casey's is a stunning absence. He is the first European or American player inside the world's top 10 to be denied a place in the biennial spectacular and many consider him the most talented of the stayaway quartet. He began this week just one spot outside the top-nine automatic qualifying positions but decided to skip the Johnnie Walker Championship for the non-counting but dollar-rich Barclays Championship. Apart from concerns about the selection process, the question will now inevitably be: did his disloyalty/arrogance cost him?
Montgomerie insisted it didn't, but then he was very careful not to say anything derogatory about the player who rose to three in the world last year. "I feel sorry for Paul and Justin," said Montgomerie. "I've left the world No 9 out here for the first time and Justin is a world star. There is nothing personal here. It's for the sake of the team. I couldn't possibly leave out Edoardo Molinari after what he did today. We have an embarrassment of riches. It was the most stressful afternoon of my career – and I've not hit a golf shot."
Casey was reported to be close to tears when finishing his final round at The Barclays last night. He shot a 69 to finish in the top 13, which was extremely courageous seeing as he inadvertently learnt of the exclusion when on the seventh. He saw Caroline Harrington give her husband's caddie – her brother, Ronan Flood – the thumbs up. By a cruel coincidence, Casey was playing with the Irishman. "Caroline's a great friend – she would have said something if she'd knew," he revealed. "At that point I knew I hadn't made it. I need time to take it in."
When he does, it might be the inclusion of Harrington – who, incidentally, he beat by six shots yesterday – which grates most. The Dubliner has three majors to his immortal name, but hasn't won a title in two years. He is ranked 10 places below Casey and also opted for the first leg of the FedEx play-off series when having a chance to qualify by right here. He has played nine European Tour events this season to Casey's 12. Harrington's recent Ryder Cup record also pales by comparison. His won just one point from nine in the last two matches; Casey four from seven. The whisper is Casey lost out in a popularity vote. His close pals in the team-room are not aplenty.
In contrast, Molinari is now a big favourite of the fans, the players and the management, with Monty more effusive than anyone. He locked himself in a room on the Gleneagles estate from 1pm with three vice-captains – Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn – and embarked on the exhaustive deliberations. Molinari was to make one of the picks "very, very easy". "In my 25 years on the European Tour I don't think I have ever seen a finish of that quality under that pressure by anyone, anywhere," crooned Monty. "What Edoardo did today was incredible."
Indeed, it was. With the Australian Brett Rumford birdieing the last to post a nine-under total, Molinari – playing in the final group alongside his brother, Francesco – was two off the pace with three remaining. "You can do it," so his caddie, Colin Byrne, told him. "You've still got two par fives to go." He did it all right, two fours on the 16th and 18th flanking a spectacular two on the par-three 17th. Molinari sent that 30-foot putt 10 feet up the slope. And so it fell towards the cup, inexorable in its progress. Edoardo's punch was backed by cheers ringing out all around Perthshire, including, it must be admitted, in the media centre. He had everyone pulling for him and everything going for him.
In eight remarkable months, seven top fives have sent the former US Amateur Champion into the world's top 20 from being out of the top 650 at the start of last year. Furthermore, this victory hurtled the 29-year-old to within less than a point of the top-four automatic positions on the world points list. Molinari was the next one in by right. When put alongside the World Cup he won last November with Francesco, his truly was a undeniable case. Later, he said he finally became aware that only victory would have been enough when looking in Monty's eyes as he congratulated him. That might explain the captain's high praise, although any hyperbole on Monty's behalf could be forgiven. He was that excited.
Another factor to make Monty bubble was the announcement of a fourth vice-captain. Sergio Garcia asked him for a role a few weeks ago when it was obvious his wretched form would not see him as player in Wales at the start of October. "One word sums up Sergio – passion," said Montgomerie. There were some more raised eyebrows at this news, as Garcia and Harrington do not get along. Casey might think that, too. In truth, he might think a lot of things.
* Scotland's Martin Laird last night three-putted the last from 20 feet and then lost a play-off to miss out on the £880,000 first prize at The Barclays in New Jersey and put himself in pole position to win the £6.5m winning bonus in the FedEx Cup. Laird led by five at one point, but was eventually beaten on the first sudden-death hole by the American Matt Kuchar.
Ryder Cup timetable
* On Tuesday 7 September, United States captain Corey Pavin will name his four wild-card choices. The current top eight US golfers who will qualify automatically are:
Phil Mickelson Age: 40, World Ranking: 2, Ryder Cup appearances: 7; Hunter Mahan 28, 12, 1; Bubba Watson 31, 25, 0; Jim Furyk 40, 6, 6; Steve Striker 43, 4, 1; Dustin Johnson 26, 24, 0; Jeff Overton 27, 46, 0; Matt Kutchar 32, 23,0.
* 28-30 September Team practice rounds at Celtic Manor.
* 30 September Opening ceremony 3.30pm.
* Friday 1 October Ryder Cup starts from 7.45am fourballs.
From 1.15pm foursomes matches.
* Saturday 2 October 7.45am fourballs, 1.15pm foursomes matches
*Sunday 3 October from 11.30am singles matches to conclude the event. 5.30pm Closing ceremony.
TV coverage live on Sky Sports.
Monty's men: The European team
Lee Westwood (England)
Age 37, world ranking 3, Ryder Cups 6, matches played 29, won 14, halved 5, lost 10.
The most consistent golfer in the world is also most probably the best Ryder Cup player in the world. The only negative is his calf injury. He will be fit but will he be match fit?
Rory McIlroy (N Ireland)
Age 21, world ranking 7, Ryder Cups 0.
Not since the debut of a certain Severiano Ballesteros has so much been expected from a first-timer. The Ulsterman has everything it takes to be a Ryder great.
Martin Kaymer (Germany)
Age 25, world ranking 5, Ryder Cups 0.
Now has the major to match the potential and could easily prove Europe's premier performer. The USPGA champion's game is without fault, as his is temperament. Langer's heir.
Graeme McDowell (N Ireland)
Age 31, world ranking 13, Ryder Cups 1, matches played 4, won 2, halved 1, lost 1.
Will partner McIlroy and, with the US Open trophy still glinting bright, will have absolutely no reason to feel overawed. A fearless competitor, ideally suited to this arena.
Ian Poulter (England)
Age 34, world ranking 11, Ryder Cups 2, matches played 7, won 6, halved 0, lost 1.
Had something to prove as a wild card when the top points-scorer two years ago. But such is his love for the biennial match, this great putter's desire will be just as intense this time.
Ross Fisher (England)
Age 29, world ranking 28, Ryder Cups 0.
Big-hitting rookie who will be ideal for the fourballs. No obvious partner, although if the Wentworth scholarship graduate is on form anyone would like to have him by their side.
Francesco Molinari (Italy)
Age 27, world ranking 38, Ryder Cups 0.
One of the best ball-strikers in the world, his consistency will drive his opponents to despair. Shaky on the greens, however, and will rely on his brother's fine putting touch.
Peter Hanson (Sweden)
Age 32, world ranking 40, Ryder Cups 0.
Impressed everybody by winning when he had to in the Czech Republic last week. He may be the worst ranked player on the team, but has a solid game and will not let anybody down.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain)
Age 46, world ranking 39, Ryder Cups 3, matches played 12, won 2, halved 3, lost 7.
With his cigars and love of good wine, Jimenez is something of a flashback. But the veteran can still hack it with the younger generation and Monty will be glad of his experience.
Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
Age 38, world ranking 18, Ryder Cups 5, matches played 21, won 7, halved 3, lost 11.
Hugely fortunate to get the nod, Harrington's three-major reputation, together with his short game, are his biggest plus points. Scored just half a point in the last two matches.
Luke Donald (England)
Age 32, world ranking 10, Ryder Cups 2, matches played 7, won 5, halved 1, lost 1.
Absent with a wrist injury last time and was much missed. Has only lost one of his seven games in two appearances, although his lack of length at Celtic Manor is a worry.
Edoardo Molinari (Italy)
Age 29, world ranking 21, Ryder Cups 0.
The fact he ousted world-renowned performers says much about the Italian. Has enjoyed an incredible eight months – and, with his brother, he will surely extend his dream run.
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