EUROPEAN Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal has hailed Ian Poulter’s matchplay prowess after handing him a wildcard place in his team for next month’s showdown with the United States.
Olazabal yesterday named Poulter and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts as the two discretionary picks in his 12-man squad, meaning three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington misses out for the first time since 1997.
Englishman Poulter, who suffered a bout of pneumonia earlier this year, was the leading points scorer in 2008 and won three points out of four when Europe regained the trophy two years ago at Celtic Manor.
“Every one of you guessed Ian was going to be there for obvious reasons,” said Olazabal, who is aiming to secure Europe’s fifth win from the last six instalments of the biennial contest.
“He has a great Ryder Cup record, he was playing well – he had some issues earlier in the season, he got ill and he couldn’t play as much – but he is cured and his attitude and spirit in the Ryder Cup team has always been great. He likes to be in that situation, playing in the Ryder Cup gets the best out of him.”
Poulter and Colsaerts, who is set to become the first Belgian to play in the Ryder Cup, were the two men to come closest to qualifying automatically, having finished 11th and 12th in the points ranking.
They join Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer in the team to face David Love III’s US team.
Colsaerts, 29, needed a top-two finish to qualify automatically for Olazabal’s team, but finished tied for 19th as Lawrie won his second European Tour title of the year.