London: Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal was right to ignore triple major winner Padraig Harrington’s claims for a wildcard pick and his 12-man team is just about perfect, said former skipper Bernard Gallacher.
Olazabal picked Belgian rookie Nicolas Colsaerts and Englishman Ian Poulter as his wildcard choices on Monday for the biennial event against United States in Illinois on Sept. 28-30.
The pair join automatic selections Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hanson, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari and Paul Lawrie in a powerful lineup.
“It’s a very strong side,” Gallacher told Reuters in an interview. “They are the best 12 players in Europe — it’s perfect.
“There were absolutely no surprises. Jose Maria reduced the amount of wildcard picks from three to two this time round and the strong message he gave was that he wanted the players to play their way into the team.
“That’s exactly what’s happened. Martin Kaymer was in the 10th and final automatic position, Colsaerts was number 11 and the next highest player in the world rankings not already in the side was Poulter,” said Gallacher who led Europe in 1991, 1993 and 1995.
The 63-year-old Scot echoed the sentiments of Spaniard Olazabal when he said Harrington was too low on the Ryder Cup points list — at number 19 — to be picked.
The Irishman has performed well in two of this year’s major championships, finishing fourth at the US Open and eighth at the Masters, but his form has not been good enough in the regular events.
“Jose Maria has actually gone straight down the points list — those that are playing good golf have been selected and Harrington was just too far down,” said Gallacher.
“Padraig has three majors under his belt but he’s probably tried to concentrate more on doing well in the majors rather than in regular tournaments week in, week out where you earn your Ryder Cup points.
“In a way he’s a bit unlucky there but Jose Maria gave clear signals throughout his captaincy he was going to stick very much to his qualifying list.”
Gallacher, who lost his first two Ryder Cup matches in charge before finally prevailing on American soil at Oak Hill in 1995, said the captain would have been mightily relieved to see fellow countryman Garcia’s recent return to form.
Garcia won the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina two weeks ago and looked on course for back-to-back victories on the US Tour until a poor final round at the Barclays Classic on Sunday meant he had to be content with a share of third place.
“The last piece in the jigsaw was Sergio because he could have caused Jose Maria problems,” Gallacher said.
“I’m sure Jose Maria said to himself, ‘That’s absolutely great, let’s go and have a glass of champagne — he’s a guy I really want in my team’.
“He didn’t want to have to pick Sergio as a wildcard — you always want your best players to qualify.”
The Scot said the Ryder Cup holders would be concerned by the mediocre form of German Kaymer who chose to miss the last points-counting event, the Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland last week, to work on his game.
“That’s the only disappointment but Jose Maria has been on the phone to him and he’s pleased he’s working on his game and is going to be playing in a few tournaments before the Ryder Cup,” said Gallacher.
“Martin’s not the same player he was a couple of years ago when he was US PGA champion and world number one, that’s for sure, but he’s won enough money in this campaign to qualify automatically.
“Having only one worry out of 12 players is okay,” Gallacher added. “In my time we had worries about a number of players.
“I think it’s just a confidence thing with Martin. Sometimes you can just get on a bad run, but with a young player like Kaymer confidence can turn around very quickly.”