Nicolas Colsaerts gets his invitation to the Ryder Cup party

Jose Maria Olazabal picks rookie and Ian Poulter as wild cards, leaving Padraig Harrington out of team

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The Independent Online

When Nicolas Colsaerts won the China Open last year, his reaction to his long-awaited first victory on the European Tour gave a guarded but very accurate insight into his career.

"I used to celebrate a lot," he said. "But now I have got a reason to celebrate." And late on Sunday evening in Scotland, glasses were filled again when he received a 10.30pm phone call from Jose Maria Olazabal telling him that he was being handed a captain's wild card to play for Europe in next month's Ryder Cup.

Colsaerts had been planning to spend yesterday morning on a quiet lake fly fishing while waiting for Olazabal to announce the final make-up of his 12-man team to play at Medinah at a lavish high noon press conference at the Gleneagles Hotel.

And it would have been easy for the 29-year-old Belgian to blame the dreary weather in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands for giving the fishing expedition a miss. But instead he was honest, saying: "There was a lot going on late last night."

But for the past three years the words "party" and "Colsaerts" have rarely been mentioned in the same breath after he recovered from what he calls a mid-life crisis, which saw him lose his European playing rights in 2007 and spend two years without a ticket to play on tour.

"I knew I had it in me," said Colsaerts, who had dreamed of playing Ryder Cup from a very young age. "I knew I was going to be a bit of a clown at some stage in my life. I knew I was going to do it.

"But I feel I had my mid-life crisis at 25, which is a good thing. I got it out of the way. I went to Australia for a few months to work at an academy in Brisbane. I got to meet wonderful guys.

"I spent 10 months there over a period of three winters. It was a great hideaway place for me for a little bit and I found myself back over there."

And by handing Colsaerts a wild card, Olazabal has found a player officially recognised as the longest hitter in European and American driving statistics to out-hit American powermen like Bubba Watson.

And while the three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was Colsaerts's main rival for a spot, Olazabal had little difficulty dismissing the claims of the Irishman, who has played in the last six Ryder Cups. "He finished 19th in the qualifying list," he said.

And Olzabal was equally adamant defending the choice of Colsaerts, saying: " If you look at the team, he's going to be the only rookie. We do have an experienced team.

" His match play record is very good. He finished runner-up last year at The World Match Play. He won this year at The World Match Play.

He's had a very solid season, and on top of that, he's made the extra effort trying to make the team. He really showed me that he wants to be a part of that team. Those are the reasons for me to pick him."

As expected the other wild card went to England's Ian Poulter, a winner of the Accenture and Volvo Match Play titles on both sides of the Atlantic in the past two years. Olazabal accepted Poulter's failure to win one of the 10 automatic places in his team after his start to this season was hampered by catching pneumonia.

With only one rookie, Olazabal will be travelling to Medinah next month with a strong team, the only obviously weak inclusion being that of Martin Kaymer, who scrambled into the last automatic team place despite missing the cuts at two of summer's majors.

The German upset some critics by failing to travel to the Johnnie Walker Championship to protect his 10 spot in the qualifying table, but after a poor recent USPGA showing, he preferred to stay at home in Scottsdale, California working with his coach Gunther Kessler.

And Olazabal accepted that excuse saying: "I talked to Martin. We had a little chat on the phone. He's been working really hard the last two weeks after the PGA.

"He's very happy with the work he put in the last two weeks.

"He's happy with the results that he's seen on the driving range, and his schedule. Actually he's going to play Holland and Italy, and we are going to have, you know, a pretty good idea on how his game is.

"Don't be mistaken. He wants to be a part of that team. He's determined to give his best. He made that point very clear to me yesterday and in that regard, I don't think I'm going to have any issues with Martin."


Team statistics

Wild-card picks

I Poulter (Eng): World ranking: 26 Ryder Cup record: P7 W5 L2

N Colsaerts (Bel): World ranking: 35 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Automatic picks

R McIlroy (N Irl), J Rose (Eng), G McDowell (N Irl), P Lawrie (Sco), F Molinari (It), L Donald (Eng), L Westwood (Eng), S Garcia (Sp), P Hanson (Swe), M Kaymer (Ger).

Team's driving averages 2012

Colsaerts 317.3 yards

McIlroy 310.0

Westwood 297.8

Hanson 297.5

Garcia 291.9

Lawrie 290.4

Rose 290.3

Kaymer 289.4

Poulter 285.3

McDowell 285.7

Donald 279.2

Molinari 277.0