Sam Torrance made the expected announcement of naming Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik as his two wild cards to complete the 12-strong European team hoping to regain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry at the end of the month.
If it is hard to imagine a European team without Jose Maria Olazabal, it was even harder for Torrance to tell the Spaniard he would not be needed. "Obviously it is tough to leave out a player of such stature," Torrance said.
"No one has a bigger heart, has as much class or is better in the team room. He was not happy to hear the news but he understood. He said he would come back in two years' time." Olazabal, who made his debut in 1987 and had only missed the 1995 event due to injury, formed an inspirational partnership with Seve Ballesteros in earlier matches and has the second best percentage point average of any European in the event.
In playing more in America earlier in the season, Olazabal knew he was limiting his chances of qualifying automatically. His form deserted him at the wrong time – he has not had a top 10 finish since winning in France in May.
"It is very important to keep the ball in play at the Ryder Cup and Ollie has been struggling with his driving," Torrance said. "I felt Parnevik is playing better." But the Scot admitted he only made the decision between Olazabal and Parnevik – Garcia was given the nod a while ago – yesterday afternoon. "Jesper was always my favourite but it was very close between them," Torrance said.
Other names he considered were his vice-captain, Ian Woosnam, and Paul Casey, who won the Scottish PGA last week and finished strongly in the BMW International yesterday. But, inevitably, Torrance went with the top two Europeans on the world rankings not already in the team. Another important factor was Garcia and Parnevik's partnership at Brookline two years ago, when they only dropped half a point in four matches.
"They were magnificent at Brookline," said Torrance. "They are great players who have great harmony between them. They may well play together again."
"Whether we have the 12 best players available is still to be proved," said Colin Montgomerie. "You can't answer that question until the Sunday night of the Ryder Cup, when everyone will have their opinion.
"This is a stronger team than two years ago, simply because we have four rookies instead of seven. The teams are looking a lot closer now than they were three months ago. One of the main differences was myself and Bernhard Langer making the team in that time. That helped Sam a lot." Langer, omitted as a wild card by Mark James in 1999, qualified at the age of 44 despite some of his best results of the season, including a third place at the US Players' Championship, not counting under the present system.
"I was relieved to make the team with my limited schedule in Europe," Langer said. "I was the only guy who has played a lot in America this season to qualify. I knew it would be difficult at the start of the year and that is why I think the system needs to be changed.
"We need to get the 12 best players, not those who play most often. At the moment, the system favours those who play 35 times in Europe and not those who are playing in other parts of the world. Right now we need to concentrate on the match but then we will have 12 months to try and come up with something better."
Langer's solution would be to adopt the world rankings, which have been refined in recent years so that players' performances on different tours around the world are given appropriate weighting.
Even without Olazabal, the European team can boast more players with winning records in the Ryder Cup than in the US team. "The Americans are strong but I feel we have good strength in depth. We have good rookies who fear nothing.
"I think it is a testament to the strength of the European Tour that Olazabal has missed out. I wouldn't have wanted another wild card because it would be very unfair to someone like Phillip Price who finished in 10th place on the list."
The last automatic place was still up for grabs at the BMW International yesterday but remained with the present incumbent, Price, who was at home in Newport after missing the cut in Munich. "The efforts of the last couple of months have taken their toll and I think I tried too hard at times," Price said.
"I don't really know how to feel at the moment but the champagne is open. I hope by tomorrow I will have settled down and can enjoy the experience of being part of the team," he added.
For the first time, there will be charitable donations, amounts to be decided, made on behalf of the European players out of the £10m profits of the match. The move is in response to a similar system set up for the American players two years ago.Reuse content