Tuesday 20 March 2018

Monty falls under Tour bandwagon

Eamonn Sweeney

The media had a lot of fun setting the Edoardo Molinari bandwagon rolling. Touting him as a potential wild card pick meant the final European Tour event of the year could be portrayed as an event charged with drama, rather than one which had little relevance to the eventual composition of the Ryder Cup team.

The fun got slightly out of hand when Molinari won the Johnnie Walker Championship, his victory-clinching birdie-birdie-birdie finish placing immense pressure on European captain Colin Montgomerie to succumb to sentiment. The Scotsman duly obliged.

And in doing so he both dealt a blow to Europe's chances of regaining the trophy and provided the United States with a major morale boost. Because it defies logic that the player excluded to make room for young Molinari, ranked number 35 in the world, is world number eight Paul Casey who should have been the first name on the wild card list.

Montgomerie was always going to have a tough choice to make, excluding one of Casey, Luke Donald, Pádraig Harrington and Justin Rose from his three wild card picks. That he has left two of them out beggars belief.

Molinari's Hollywood ending was impressive yet the fact remains that he had the opportunity to qualify by being among the top five European players on the home tour, excluding those qualifying through the world rankings. In this, he failed to surpass the underwhelming duo of Miguel Angel Jimenez and Peter Hanson who will both be among his team-mates at Celtic Manor.

With six rookies on the side, the team looks much weaker than anyone would have imagined a few months ago. The wild card picks are there to help a manager rectify any glaring omissions from the team brought about by the vagaries of the selection process, not to reward loyalty to the European Tour at a time when most of our best players concentrate on the American equivalent.

The omission of Casey and Rose has sent their country's sports journalists into a frenzy. Having pushed the claims of Molinari as sentimental favourite, they have trained their sights on Pádraig Harrington instead.

Yet the Irishman's poor recent form notwithstanding, it would surely be unthinkable to omit a player who in the past four years has won three Majors when the likes of Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter have still to win one.

Perhaps it would have been better had Montgomerie relied solely on the world rankings to select his team, in which case Europe would be doing battle with Casey, Rose and Henrik Stenson in the side rather than Hanson, Jimenez and Molinari Senior, all three of whom are also ranked behind Robert Karlsson.

It would certainly be a better team than the one we've been landed with. That's the thing with bandwagons, it's all fun and games till they run out of control.

Sunday Independent

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