Ryder Cup questions remain after Johnnie Walker
AUCHTERARDER, Scotland – While one issue was settled on Sunday, the main question still looms large. Scotland’s Paul Lawrie is the 2012 Johnnie Walker Champion, but who will get the bigger prizes of places on the European Ryder Cup team?
Lawrie’s four-shot victory over Australian Brett Rumford satisfied the Scottish galleries. Lawrie already had booked his place in this year’s Ryder Cup. It means the 1999 Open champion, with two wins this year, travels to Medinah Country Club 13 years after his Ryder Cup debut. His 16-under 272 total gave him his eighth European Tour title.
Now to the real business.
The situation is as it was at the start of the week. European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal has two big decisions to make at noon Monday in the five-star Gleneagles Hotel: his wild-card picks to take to Chicago for golf’s greatest team contest.
Will it be Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts? Or will dark horse Rafael Cabrera Bello be a surprise pick? Will Olazabal perhaps consider the experienced Thomas Bjorn after his T-10 here, even though Bjorn already has been named as a vice captain?
One thing’s for sure: No one seemed to have the answers.
Colsaerts was the only player this week with a chance to make the team automatically. A first- or second-place finish would have given him the 10th and last automatic spot, knocking out Martin Kaymer.
The Belgian finished T-19, but wasn’t in a hurry to get out of Scotland. He is staying on an extra day at Gleneagles to do some fly fishing in the hope his big catch comes when Olazabal names him to the European team.
Colsaerts thinks he deserves it.
“The situation hasn’t really changed,” Colsaerts said. “Nobody really made a statement big enough, I think, to get in front of me in the rankings. I think I’ve done everything I could.”
“I’d be very disappointed (if I don’t get picked) because I gave my heart out. I just don’t really see a bad ending to this story. I’ve been playing so well for the last year and a half to two years.
“Whatever happens, it’s been pretty emotional. It’s going to be difficult to sleep tonight.”
Colsaerts came off the golf course exhausted after playing nine of the last 10 weeks to try to make the team. In comparison, Cabrera-Bello looked like he could play nine of the next 10 weeks. But then, he hasn’t been in the same spotlight.
The Spaniard has been pretty much the forgotten man in this Ryder Cup race despite an excellent season. He won the Dubai Desert Classic, placed second in the Irish Open and was third in the Maybank Malaysian Open and, more importantly, the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
“I’ve had a very solid year and played very consistently,” Cabrera-Bello said. “I had a big win, I played well in a big match-play event and I’m really keen to play. I like to play match play. I’ve played solid every week. I’ve been making noise almost every week I have been playing.”
By any stretch of the imagination, he should be a consideration, but he probably had to do more than his joint-10th finish at Gleneagles.
“I know if I won I would have had a much better chance of getting in the team.”
The smart money says Poulter and Colsaerts will get the picks. The Englishman could have made the team automatically if he’d played Gleneagles and finished 35th or better. However, he’s playing in this week’s Barclays Championship on the PGA Tour.
"I am feeling fairly relaxed about he situation," Poulter said. "I am very, very comfortable. I won't lose any sleep tonight."
He seems a lock to get a pick considering he has played in three matches and has an 8-3 record.
“If Poulter was 50th on the list, you would pick him because of the confidence of the guy,” said Colin Montgomerie, who captained Europe to victory two years ago. “What any captain wants is a team full of confidence. Whether it’s self-confidence or self-belief, or whatever it is, he believes it. He’s a pick, no question.”
So Poulter's seemingly done enough. Has the long-hitting Colsaerts?
Not all Ryder Cup picks have been logical – remember Andrew Coltart’s surprise selection in 1999?
Who knows what’s on Olazabal’s mind. We’ll find out at noon Monday.