Nicolas Colsaerts fishing for a place in Jose Maria Olazabal's Ryder Cup team
Belgian hopes he has done enough to beat Harrington to one of captain's picks today
Monday 27 August 2012
A quiet lake in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands usually plays host to keen fly fishermen happily winding down; but the rod of one angler today on the stretch of water just outside Auchterarder will not be just twitching after taking a bite from a rainbow trout. Much as Nicolas Colsaerts may try to escape the madding crowd, his mind will be awaiting news from the Gleneagles Hotel a few miles away.
There, at noon today, Jose Maria Olazabal will finally unveil the identity of the two golfers who will be his wild card picks to complete the 12-man European Ryder Cup team to take on the Americans at Medinah in Chicago next month. And the Belgian Colsaerts is very much in the frame.
Although uncapped, he is officially ranked the longest driver of a golfball on both the European and US Tours.Furthermore his record this year of nine top-nine finishes in tournaments, including winning the prestigious World Matchplay title in Spain in May, matches that of one other player on the two tours – the current world No 1 and recent runaway USPGA winner Rory McIlroy.
Despite those impressive statistics, the 29-year-old Colsaerts cannot be certain that Olazabal will favour him. England's Ian Poulter is favourite for a pick, having finished only just outside the top 10 in the table that will provide 10 automatic team members.
Apart from having contributed massively to Europe's Ryder Cup victories at Oakland Hills in 2004 and Celtic Manor two years ago, Poulter has also won both the high-profile Accenture and Volvo Matchplay titles in America and Europe over the past two years.
Colsaerts's rival for the other pick is the Irish triple major winner Padraig Harrington, who has not missed a Ryder Cup since making his debut at Brookline in 1999. Harrington has not won in Europe or America since taking the 2008 USPGA title at Oakland Hills, but after switching coaches to Yorkshireman Peter Cowen last year the 40-year-old Dubliner has shown signs of arresting that slump, finishing fourth at this year's US Open.
As Olazabal sat down last night to finalise his plans, it will have seemed a straight battle between youth and experience. But the Spaniard does have history with Harrington, not having forgotten that in the 2003 Seve Trophy the Irishman questioned his integrity over the repair of a pitch mark.
The deliberation could have been avoided had Colsaerts managed to claim a top two spot in the Johnnie Walker Championship, which finished at Gleneagles last night. The world ranking points would have taken him into the last automatic team place at the expense of Martin Kaymer.
While the German raised eyebrows by spending such a key weekend resting up at his home in Arizona instead of travelling to Scotland to try to protect his place, Colsaerts was at least willing to play his eighth tournament in nine weeks. But the constant flying between Europe and the States caught up with him as he could only shoot a level par final round 72 yesterday to finish 10 shots behind Scots winner Paul Lawrie.
And Colsaerts was certain that fatigue played a big part in his failure to cross the finishing line. "Mentally I am just pretty tired," he said. " I have only taken one week off in the last nine because I have wanted to play the Ryder Cup badly. And I am looking forward to going fishing.
"I would like to think I am still in a good position to get a wild card because nobody has really made a big enough statement to get in front of me. I would like to think I have put as much pressure on Jose Maria as I could have. I think I have done everything to show that I am capable of delivering."
Colsaerts has a fair point. Harrington could have nudged past him had he won the Barclays Fedex Cup play-off on the US Tour, which finished at Bethpage last night. And the Irishman did lay early foundations, shooting an eight under par 64 over New York's tough course to take the first round lead on Thursday. But he followed that with two 75s, following a four-year pattern of being unable to string four good rounds together in a tournament.
But if Olazabal was going to have a thoughtful final 24 hours sorting out his picks, one performance in Scotland will have delighted him. The Gleneagles winner Lawrie, who has not played in the Ryder Cup for 13 years, has rediscovered the form that saw him win the 1999 Open at Carnoustie and looks ready to shine at Medinah.
"I am now playing the best golf of my career," said Lawrie last night, a declaration backed up by his best return in a season since joining the European Tour full-time in 1992.
He also became the first Scotsman in Tour history to have won on three different courses in his homeland, following his Carnoustie Open win and the Dunhill Links Trophy at St Andrews in 2001.
Ten so far: Ryde Cup team
Paul Lawrie, 43 years old, Scotland Ryder Cups: 1
Rory McIlroy, 23, N Ireland R Cups: 1
Justin Rose, 32, England R Cups: 1
Graeme McDowell, 33, N Ireland R Cups: 2
Francesco Molinari, 29, Italy R Cups: 1
Luke Donald, 34, England R Cups: 3
Lee Westwood, 39, England Ryder Cups: 7
Peter Hanson, 34, Sweden R Cups:1
Sergio Garcia, 32, Spain R Cups: 6
Martin Kaymer, 27, Germany Ryder Cups: 1
PLUS TWO CAPTAIN'S PICKS
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