Sport Golf

Saturday 18 November 2017

Ten top players who missed Ryder Cup cut

OH Captain, my captain -- let me follow where you lead. The classic Ryder Cup player's motto? Eh, no. Not really. Not when the skipper twists the knife into your gut and publicly discards you from his plans for the big match.

Yesterday, it was Colin Montgomerie's turn to face the world and explain his captain's picks for the biennial clash with the USA at Celtic Manor next month.

Monty was faced with tough choices and when he made them, he knew that they would provide major talking points and controversy.

His only hope now is that victory in Wales will justify everything and show the wisdom of his decision-making.

The funny thing is that since Europe joined with Britain and Ireland to make the Ryder Cup a real contest back in 1979, the selections have rarely been made without someone's feelings being hurt.

And some of the greatest players in Europe first experienced rejection and dejection before coming back to play Ryder Cup and taking on the captaincy.

Seve Ballesteros, Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, and Bernhard Langer are among the stars who have been on the wrong side of selection.

Making it even more bizarre, each of those superstars of European golf has not hesitated to put the boot in and hurt the feelings of top professionals when their turn came to make the captain's picks.

Funny old game, isn't it?

Here is a list of big-name players whose services were not required for various Ryder Cups, much to their chagrin.

For some, including Philip Walton, Eamonn Darcy and Christy O'Connor Jnr, there was to be redemption at a later stage, although they didn't know that when they were left in exile by European captains.

1. Seve Ballesteros

Walton Heath, 1981.

USA victory.

Seve was the top man in Europe, and the 1980 US Masters champion. Arguably, he was the best player in the world, but the Spaniard had become embroiled in a row with the European Tour about appearance money.

Amazingly, a selection committee of the Ryder Cup captain John Jacobs, Neil Coles and Bernhard Langer decided to ban Seve from the team because of his issues with the Tour.

2. Tony Jacklin

Walton Heath, 1981.

USA victory.

Jacklin, British Open champion in 1969 and US Open winner in 1970, had played in seven consecutive stagings of the Cup. He was 13th in the list, and Mark James was 12th. Neither was an automatic selection, but captain John Jacobs opted for James.

Jacklin, like Seve, vowed to have nothing to do with the Ryder Cup after that, but two years later, on assuming the captaincy on his own terms, he persuaded Ballesteros to come on board and the rest is history!

3. Christy O'Connor Jnr

The Belfry, 1985.

Europe victory.

Junior had not played in the Cup since 1975, but in 1985 he finished third in the British Open at Sandwich and had a very good year, finishing 11th in the standings.

He felt he would make the team but Jacklin had three picks and opted for Jose Rivero of Spain ahead of O'Connor because he had won a tournament at The Belfry earlier in the season. Christy didn't speak to Jacklin for a long time afterwards.

4. Philip Walton

The Belfry, 1989.

Halved match.

Europe retained the Cup.

What was it about the Irish? Walton looked a certainty for the team, despite missing the cut in the German Open, the last qualifying event, but Jacklin opted for . . . Christy Jnr, who finished behind Walton in the standings.

Jacklin revealed in his autobiography that one of the factors was that Walton was using the long putter, while Junior had the normal putter, which made Jacko trust Christy's putting more than Walton's.

5. Eamonn Darcy

Kiawah Island, 1991.

USA victory.

Sore one for Eamonn. He was a virtual certainty at seventh in the money list, and told captain Bernard Gallacher, who was at Darcy's house, he wouldn't be going to the final qualifying event in Germany.

Darcy says Gallacher said not to worry, that he would be in the team anyway. Gallacher can't recollect the conversation. In any case, Gallacher picked Mark James (27th in the list), after results in Germany pushed Darcy back to 10th place.

6. Miguel Angel Martin

Valderrama, 1997.

Europe victory.

Seve Ballesteros was captain. He had only two captain's picks. Martin had qualified for the team, but suffered a wrist injury that kept him out of action until shortly before the match.

Seve required Martin to take a fitness test. The player refused, and Seve dropped him. It got nasty for a while, with a law suit threatened by Martin. The end result was Martin being an unofficial extra team member who didn't play, and Seve got to call up Nick Faldo, Jesper Parnevik and his old pal Jose Maria Olazabal.

7. Nick Faldo

Brookline, 1999.

USA victory.

After 11 appearances, Faldo found himself struggling for form, and up against a famously dismissive character in Mark James. Faldo wouldn't give up and re-arranged his plans to compete in the BMW International in Germany, the last counting event.

He met James beforehand and asked him: "If I win this week, will that be enough to get me in?" James replied: "Even if you win, it's unlikely I'll pick you." Faldo didn't win, but it wouldn't have made any difference.

Prior to the match Faldo sent a letter of support to the team in America -- and James threw it in the bin.

8. Bernhard Langer

Brookline, 1999.

USA victory.

The German was tipped to get the second wild-card slot, but James went for rookie Andrew Coltart, making it seven newcomers on the team.

Europe lost, and James didn't give Coltart a game until he had to in the singles -- against Tiger Woods.

9. Thomas Bjorn

The K Club, 2006.

Europe victory.

The Great Dane was snarling and bitter when skipper Ian Woosnam didn't pick him. Worse, in his view, was that he didn't get a call from Woosnam beforehand, and learned his fate on television in Germany.

Woosie picked Lee Westwood, who had spent the earlier part of the year in America, when the captain had said he wanted to pick players who based themselves in Europe.

"This will be the first time I don't even watch the Ryder Cup on TV, and you don't know how sad that is, given how much I care for the tournament, the European Tour, and the competition itself," said Bjorn.

He still wanted the team to win "in spite of the captain". Bjorn was later fined by the Tour and forced to apologise but he had made his point.

10. Darren Clarke

Valhalla, 2008.

USA victory.

Conspiracy theory! Ian Poulter missed the last qualifying event at Gleneagles and played in the USA, even though he still had a chance to automatically qualify. Captain Nick Faldo denied he'd given Poulter the nod he was in the team. Darren Clarke, twice a winner on Tour that season and in sparkling form, was left out when the captain named his picks as England's Poulter and Paul Casey.

Irish Independent

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