Olazabal’s decision came as no surprise. Poulter and Colsaerts were Nos. 11 and 12, respectively, on the World Points list and narrowly missed qualifying for the team on points.
“It’s never an easy choice,” Olazabal said. “You still have to make a few phone calls, and there were a few players who were in the mix, but it was not all that difficult.”
This is Poulter’s fourth appearance in the Ryder Cup, and the 36-year-old Englishman already has established himself as one of Europe’s most dependable performers, owning an 8-3 career record in the biennial event. After receiving a captain’s pick for the 2008 matches, Poulter became the highest points-earner for either side at Valhalla, and two years ago he won three out of four possible points in Europe’s narrow victory over the U.S. in Wales.
“I think everyone of you would guess that Ian would be there, and that was a pretty good guess, not a difficult one,” Olazabal said during a news conference Monday at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. “His attitude and his sprit in the Ryder Cup has always been great, and he’s one of those players who likes to be in that situation; it brings the best out of him.”
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Poulter said via telephone. “To get the call last night from Jose was a great moment.”
Colsaerts, 29, won the World Match Play Championship and is considered one of the longest hitters on the European Tour. The Belgian could have bumped Martin Kaymer out of the 10th and final automatic spot with a T-2 finish or better last week at Gleneagles, but his T-19 wasn’t enough to improve his position. He is the lone rookie on the European side.
“It’s been a pretty long summer,” Colsaerts said. “Every time I put myself in a situation where I could seal the deal, it was always in the back of my mind. I’ve gone from nervous about making the team to now nervous to getting there. But it’s a good problem to have.”
Said Olazabal, “He’s made the extra effort trying to make the team, and he showed me that he really wanted it.”
Other notable players who were vying for one of the two captain’s picks for the Sept. 28-30 Ryder Cup at Valhalla: Rafael Cabrera-Bello, David Lynn, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Thomas Bjorn (one of four vice captains) and Padraig Harrington.
Harrington was a particularly intriguing prospect, given his Ryder Cup experience (played every competition since 1999) and strong performances in the majors this season (three top 20s). But in the end, Olazabal concluded that the Irishman hadn’t done enough to make the squad.
“I talked to him last night, and I was very straight to the point,” Olazabal said. “I know he tried hard, but he was 19th on the list. I know he’s a great player, and I would have loved to have him on the team, but you need to be playing good. Simple as that.”
The European team should have plenty of confidence when it rolls into Valhalla next month. Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship three weeks ago, followed by Sergio Garcia’s victory at the Wyndham Championship and Paul Lawrie’s convincing triumph Sunday at the Johnnie Walker Championship.
“It’s important in that it builds confidence, and that is crucial,” Olazabal said. “But at the end of the day, it’s how they play that week.”
The complete European Ryder Cup team, which has won four of the past five Ryder Cup matches: