A word of advice to the winner of this week’s Johnnie Walker Championship: Enjoy your 15 seconds of fame.
Yes, 15 seconds. Unless said winner happens to force his way onto the Ryder Cup team, then that’s about all the attention this week’s winner at Gleneagles is going to get. He’ll be but a bit part in the bigger story that is the completion of the European Ryder Cup team.
And there’s only one man in the Gleneagles field who can force his way into the European team.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts will make the European Ryder Cup team automatically with a victory or second-place finish. The long-hitting Colsaerts would kick Germany’s Martin Kaymer out of the team as a result.
Captain Jose Maria Olazabal makes his two wild-card picks Monday. As soon as the winner is crowned Sunday, attention will shift to Ollie’s selections. If Colsaerts doesn’t finish first or second and make the team on merit, then the Belgian has been widely tipped to get one of the wild-card picks alongside Ian Poulter.
Poulter was on the European team until Sergio Garcia won last week’s Wyndham Championship. The flamboyant Englishman is an absolute no-brainer to get a pick. He has played in three matches and holds an 8-3 record.
Arguably no British player has ever embraced the Ryder Cup as Poulter has. “It’s just the biggest unbelievable buzz in golf,” Poulter said. “The majors are great, but nothing compares to playing in the Ryder Cup. I live to play in the Ryder Cup.”
Poulter formed a pretty good partnership with close friend Justin Rose four years ago, winning two out of three contests. So Olazabal already has a natural pairing for this year’s match.
Expect Olazabal to name Poulter to the side when he makes his picks at 10 a.m. Monday at Gleneagles. In fact, bet your house on it.
As for the other pick, Colsaerts deserves his place on this year’s team. The Belgian has won twice in the last 16 months. Last year, he won the Volvo China Open to record his first European Tour victory. This year, he added the Volvo World Match Play in Spain.
So Olazabal knows Colsaerts can handle himself in match play. The Spaniard also has the luxury of having a group of experienced players. Colsaerts will be the only rookie. Moreover, he hits the ball long, and that will be an asset at Medinah.
Olazabal will give due consideration to Padraig Harrington. The Irishman has played in every Ryder Cup since 1999. He has three majors in his trophy cabinet, too. Normally that would be enough, but Harrington hasn’t played well in the past three matches, going 2-9-2.
Miguel Angel Jimenez also might be in Olazabal’s thinking, but as a fourth vice captain and not as a player. The veteran has played in four matches, including last time around when he won two of three games. However, unless he were to win at Gleneagles, then expect him to bring his joie de vivre to the team room as part of Ollie’s backroom team.
David Lynn and Rafael Cabrera-Bello made good runs at making the team but have come up short. Either would have to win at Gleneagles to enter Olazabal’s thinking.
So if you were to bet, put your money on Poulter and Colsaerts as the two wild-card picks. Only a Colsaerts victory can change that outcome.