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2012 European Ryder Cup Team Finalized
For his two wild-card picks captain Jose Maria Olazabal has selected England's Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium to fill out the European Ryder Cup 12-man squad. Olazabal made the announcement on Monday.
The two players join the 10 automatic qualifiers as Europe seeks to retain the Ryder Cup it won two years ago at Celtic Manor in Wales when the biennial competition is held September 28-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
In addition to Poulter and Colsearts, the European team is comprised of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer.
Olazabal also made fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez his fourth vice-captain. Jimenez will join Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, Northern Irishman Darren Clarke and Ireland's Paul McGinley.
U.S. captain Davis Love III will announce his four wild-card picks on September 4 at the conclusion of the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts Thursday at TPC Boston. Love has already named his assistant captains: Fred Couples, Mike Hulbert, Scott Verplank and Jeff Sluman.
The eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. team are Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. The next four players in the points' standings are Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler, though Love can select any players he wishes for his captain's picks.
The long-hitting Colsaerts, whose 316.7 driving average leads the European Tour, becomes the first Belgian in the 85-year history of the Ryder Cup. The 29-year-old received word from Olazabal in Scotland, where he was playing in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, which Lawrie won by four strokes.
"This has been something I've wanted since I was a little kid," Colsaerts told reporters. "I know my phone hasn't stopped ringing but I do hope this is going to put golf in a better position in (Belgian) people's minds, people's heads," he added. "Golf is not a very popular sport back home, and not much as it is over here in Scotland.
"I would think that some of the young guys are going to go play tournaments abroad and feel like they are part of a bit of the golf culture, just because I've finally put the Belgian flag on the map," added Colsaerts, who finished tied for 19th at 6-under 282 at Gleneagles.
Poulter was on the other side of the pond in New York, where he had just completed 72 holes of The Barclays, the first event in the four-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs on the PGA Tour. The 32-year-old ended up tied for 36th at even-par 284, 10 shots behind winner Nick Watney.
"I am just thrilled to get the call last night from Jose, which was a great moment, and I'm going to be thrilled to, again, pour some passion over the holes at Medinah and I'll try my best," said Poulter, who'll be making his fourth appearance on a European Ryder Cup squad.
There was some talk about three-time major winner Padraig Harrington being named as a wild-card pick by Olazabal, especially after the Irishman opened with a 64 to take the first-round lead in The Barclays. The talk came despite rumors that Harrington and Olazabal didn't get along. But Harrington carded two 75s in Rounds 2 and 3 at Bethpage Black before rebounding with a 68 on Sunday to finish T-19 at 2-under 282.
Olazabal quelled any perceived problems he had with Harrington, attributing the Dubliner's not being selected to his overall performance this year. "He is 19th on the [European] points list and he was just a little bit too far down," Olazabal said. "I know he's a great player and I would have loved to have him in the team . . . but you need to be playing well, too."
Jimenez is a four-time member of European Ryder Cup teams and, in 1997, served as a non-playing assistant to captain Seve Ballesteros when the Euros won the Cup in the emotional matches at Valderrama Golf Club in Spain.
As for countryman Jimenez, Olazabal knows what he's getting with the pony-tailed, cigar-chomping 48-year-old from Malaga. "Miguel was Seve Ballesteros's right-hand man in the 1997 edition and you know he has a very simple and great philosophy - he always sees the positive side and makes people feel better," Olazabal said in a statement.
"He shares with Thomas, Darren and Paul that passion, commitment and desire to win and, like them, I know he will encourage everyone in the team room. I now have four great friends behind me - four guys I know, four guys I trust and four guys familiar with this contest which is so important because the Ryder Cup is unique."
"Fifteen years after being alongside Seve, it's great to be vice-captain to Jose Maria," said Jimenez, an 18-time European Tour winner. "I remember being awoken at 3 a.m. by Seve for team talks so I hope Jose Maria hasn't got the same thing in mind. Seriously though, I would not be telling the truth if I didn't say that I would have liked to have been playing again.
"There is nothing to compare with that but next to that I could not be happier than to be a vice-captain alongside Darren, Thomas and Paul," added Jimenez.