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Nick Faldo is on the Clock

Aug. 28, 2008     By     Comments (8)

Which European golfers deserve a captain's pick next week?

Thrash TalkThe FedExCup playoffs kicked off last week, and while this week's Deutsche Bank Championship is big news, the Ryder Cup takes the cake as usual. A couple weeks ago, I dissected the United States team and predicted the four golfers Paul Azinger will pick next Tuesday. European captain, Nick Faldo, has to make his two captain's picks the day before on Labor Day.

It was tough finding four worthy golfers for Azinger to pick, but the same can't be said for the European side. While there are only two picks, there are a handful of worthy choices. It's going to be tough for Faldo, so I'll lend him a helping hand this week. I'll eliminate a few of the more undeserving choices, and then I'll select the two guys most deserving of making the European team.

It's worth noting the current top 10 consists of Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Soren Hansen, and Oliver Wilson.

No Chance
Colin Montgomerie is possibly the best European Ryder Cup golfer of all time. He has played the Ryder Cup eight consecutive times, and he has racked up a very impressive 20-9-7 overall record. How in the world can be left off the team? His play has been lackluster, plain and simple.

In a year he knew he had to play well to make the team, he has done the exact opposite. Monty is 20th on the European points list, and he is 37th on the World points list. It doesn't help that he and Nick Faldo aren't best buddies either. It will be weird not seeing Montgomerie playing at Valhalla next month, but quite simply, he doesn't belong this time.

Carl Pettersson and Daniel Chopra have similar impressive results this season, but neither are going to be playing in their first Ryder Cup next month. Pettersson won the Wyndham Championship a couple weeks ago, but the overall strength of the field was pretty weak. On top of that, the victory was sandwiched between a tie for 47th and a tie for 48th. Technically, he might have a chance with a win at the Deutsche Bank this week, but that's not happening.

Chopra won the first PGA Tour event of the season, and that was also his only top 10 in the United States this year. He had a top-10 finish on the European Tour a couple weeks ago, but it's obvious his best golf of 2008 is behind him. He is worth mentioning because he is 12th on the World points list, but there are many others more deserving this time around.

Close but no Cigar
Martin Kaymer has been in the top 10 in the European standings at various times this year, but he isn't right now. If things ended today, he would finish 11th in team qualifying. After winning his second European Tour event of the season a couple months back, the young German was almost a lock for the team.

Ian Poulter

The two months or so since, however, haven't gone so well for Kaymer. Since his victory at the BMW International Open in late June, he has struggled badly. Other than a tie for 14th a couple weeks ago, he hasn't had anything better than a tie for 55th. Kaymer is a very talented golfer and will be a mainstay on the European team for many years to come, but he isn't playing as well as some of the others vying for a captain's pick.

Leaving Ian Poulter off the European team was pretty tough, and he was the last golfer I eliminated before selecting the final two. Poulter has had a very consistent season, but it hasn't been as solid as I originally thought. He has only one top 10 on the PGA Tour this season, and that was his runner-up finish at the British Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

On top of that, he only has one top-10 finish on the European Tour in 2008. While a win or top-five finish this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship (he isn't playing in Europe this week by the way) would certainly help his cause, he is probably going to come up a hair short this year. Nonetheless, he will be dangerous if he makes the team because of his talent and tenacity.

The Right Fit
Now that the others are out of the way, it's time to pick the two most deserving Europeans. The first one is a tap-in, and that's Darren Clarke. Nick Faldo probably won't admit it, but Clarke is as much of a sure thing as it gets right now. This past weekend, the Irishman picked up his second European Tour victory of the season. He also finished in a tie for sixth at Bridgestone earlier this month.

When it comes Ryder Cup history, Darren Clarke has that covered as well. He has played in the Ryder Cup the last five times it has been contested, and he has racked up a solid 10-7-3 record in the process. The partnership of Clarke and Lee Westwood have given the United States fits for years, and they will probably be paired together again this year on more than one occasion. This choice wasn't a tough one, and it will be a shock if the Irishman is left off this year's team.

As for the second captain's pick, it has to be Paul Casey. It was between he and Poulter, with Casey edging out the fiery Englishman. In a way, he has flown under the radar a little in 2008. Things didn't start out great for him, but he has played very well the last couple months. On the PGA Tour, Casey has three top-10 finishes in his last five events, and he finished in a tie for 15th at the PGA Championship as well.

Paul Casey also has past Ryder Cup experience, playing in 2004 and 2006. Two years ago at The K Club, the Englishman went 2-0-2 and won three points for his team. The combination of playing well at the moment and having recent success in the biggest event in golf is too much for Nick Faldo to ignore.

The Final Say
Having too many worthy golfers to choose from is a great problem for Nick Faldo to have. It may be tough for him, but at least there are a lot of viable options. Once the two captains make their selections, the 2008 Ryder Cup will start taking shape. It's less than a month away, and it's going to be exciting to see how things work out this year. Let the debate begin.

It's your turn to tell me what you think about the European Ryder Cup situation. Should Monty even be considered for this year's team? Also, which guys are right on the edge but aren't as deserving as others? Finally, if you were captain, which two would you pick? If you have anything to add, please comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk and have a safe Labor Day weekend!

Photo Credits: © The Sand Trap .com.

Discussion

  1. On Golf Channel (19th Hole) last night they made it pretty clear that they believe Poulter has "the nod" (from Faldo) to skip this week and that he's "in."

    Plus, unless Nick Faldo is a liar, Paul Casey made the team by making the putt on 18 at the Barclays. :-D

  2. EW says:

    Poulter himself has denied having been picked. The only reason why he is missing the European Tour event is that he has gone for the money which proves that his heart and mind are not where it should be for the Ryder Cup. It is also disappointing that he lied about having to play in the Fedex Cup event to qualify for next year's PGA Tour (there are other "poorer" events that he can play in after the Deutsche Bank Championship). His absence in Scotland this week has seriously miffed a lot of fellow players and Faldo will be a fool to include him as Poulter has shown he is not a team player. But perhaps Zinger can borrow him.

  3. Neil says:

    Clarke's a lock.

    The second pick is harder, I think Faldo has given Poulter the nod that he is out and that is why Ian's not at Gleneagles.

    Casey or Monty for pick two. I'd go for Monty if he finishes top 5 this week otherwise Casey.

    That said, looking at the US team Faldo could pick David Beckham and Europe would still win!

  4. Mark Sakowski says:

    What about Justin Rose?

  5. Tony says:

    Surprising that Dougherty didn't get a mention. He's done well this

  6. Tony says:

    He's done well this season and no one would play as hard for Faldo. But there are probably more deserving players. Clarke surely guaranteed his spot with his win in Holland. And that kind of presented a problem for Faldo, because up until the KLM I don't think Clarke was being considered and Poulter and Casey were the most likely to get in. Now I think Faldo has to leave one of them out. Faldo has a soft spot for Poulter I think, but Casey, though he's not risen nearly as high as he should have yet, is the better player.

  7. EW says:

    Can't believe Clarke has been left out!

    Faldo has made the first mistake in picking Poulter. Mmm...I think the European Team has just lost at least one point by not having a Westwood/Clarke partnership, hope it's not more.

  8. Dennis says:

    How can Faldo not pick Darren?

    A few days ago I watched the 2006 Ryder Cup on tape. Darren did an amazing job and is an impressive matchplayer.

    I am really sorry for Nick Faldo not having a third pick. I am sure he would have picked the Englishman Nick Doherty...

    Poor Darren....

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