Tait: Colsaerts makes his case for Ryder Cup
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Jose Maria Olazabal should get Nicolas Colsaerts measured for a European Ryder Cup blazer. The big-hitting Belgian looks like an excellent possibility to make Olazabal’s team after his second victory of the year.
A 1-up victory over Graeme McDowell in the Volvo World Match Play Championship moved Colsaerts to sixth on the European Ryder Cup points list. The win had been coming. Colsaerts has been one of the most consistent players on this year’s European Tour.
In his 10 tournaments leading up to the World Match Play, the 29-year-old had posted six top-10 finishes. Included in that stretch was second place in the Sicilian Open and third in the Volvo China Open. He won the latter tournament in 2011 for his first European Tour victory.
Alvaro Quiros is generally regarded as the longest hitter on the European Tour, but Colsaerts matches him yard for yard. Actually, the Belgian leads the tour in driving distance, averaging 316 yards. That’s longer than Bubba Watson, who is averaging 315 yards on the PGA Tour.
Colsaerts’s path to the Ryder Cup will only become easier because of his victory. He started the World Match Play No. 51 in the Official World Golf Rankings and is sure to move inside the top 35 as a result of winning in Spain.
The man from Brussels began his career with high hopes. He got his card at the 2000 European Tour Qualifying School at the age of 18. He was the second-youngest player at the time to get his card at the Euro Q-School. However, he lost his way in the years that followed before finally making his breakthrough last year.
Colsaerts reached the semifinals of the World Match Play last year, but looked liked he would head home early this year. He didn’t win either of his group matches, and only made it into the knockout stages after a playoff with Charl Schwartzel.
“It means everything,” Colsaerts said. “Where do I start? I felt that I had a pretty good shot at it last year in the same format, and I was a little disappointed not to get to the final.
“Two days ago I was in my room taking a nap thinking I was going to fly home. It means so much to be here, it's fantastic.
“I played well in tough conditions. Wind like this, you know it's going to be very difficult. Graeme McDowell, he's won the U.S. Open, so he's used to playing in tough conditions. I knew that it was going to be a tough game in conditions like these.”
McDowell is no slouch when it comes to match play, and was favorite heading into the final. For Colsaerts to take him down bodes well for Olazabal and Europe’s hopes in the Ryder Cup.
Don’t be surprised if Colsaerts becomes the first Belgian to play in the biennial match.