Justin Rose was the high-profile casualty as Padraig Harrington confirmed his European captain’s picks for this month’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. As recently as April 2019 Rose was the world No 1; he now finds himself overlooked by Europe after Harrington turned to Ian Poulter, Sergio García and Shane Lowry.
“I’m really happy with my team,” Harrington said. “I am absolutely thrilled. My biggest difficulty will be that I have too many good players.I have a great team, probably the best team of ball strikers Europe has ever sent out in a Ryder Cup.” High praise, indeed.
García and Poulter were always regarded as automatic Harrington choices. The final place became a matter of great complication, linked to automatic spots in the European team sealed in the PGA Championship at Wentworth. Rose closed with a terrific 65 for a share of sixth in the final qualifying event, with Harrington delivering a very public blow to the 2016 Olympic gold medal winner just hours later. “You can only blame yourself if you don’t get in and don’t get picked,” Rose said.
Rose has played in five Ryder Cups, Europe winning three times. However, his 2021 form was insufficient even for a place in the first round of the PGA Tour play-offs, which included 125 players.
Lowry, the 2019 Open champion, will make his Ryder Cup debut in Wisconsin. “He is well suited to the course and conditions we expect,” said Harrington of his fellow Irishman. “His stats are great, he is one of our leading players. Shane has good, consistent form and this brought him to this place.
“Nobody thinks of him as a rookie. Shane is a big-time player, he is never better than when he is on the big stage. It was an easy pick based on his form; he delivered for me and all the vice-captains.”
On García, Harrington said: “He is a leader. He really, really leads that team. I’m relying on him to stand up there and be a leader. He just loves the Ryder Cup and everything about it. He likes the responsibility of being around the younger guys. Sergio is a rounded Ryder Cup player – there isn’t a member of the team who wouldn’t want to play with him.”
Poulter, an icon of the European Ryder Cup scene, was picked from 49th in the world, seven places behind Rose. Poulter missed the cut at Wentworth.
“He brings incredible passion to the team room and his matches but you can’t pick a player based on that,” said Harrington of Poulter. “He has played great all year, he is probably in the form of his life.”
The automatic European qualifiers had been confirmed as Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Lee Westwood, Bernd Wiesberger and Paul Casey. Wiesberger’s tie for 20th at the PGA Championship was sufficient to seal his place. That Lowry closed in a share of 17th meant Westwood held on to his automatic berth by a slim margin. Westwood had struggled to a closing round of 77 in Surrey, the 48-year-old admitting the Ryder Cup scenario had clouded his thoughts. With Westwood the likely captain for 2023 in Italy, the European qualifying criteria will change.
Before Harrington offered his hand, Billy Horschel had become only the second American – after the late, great Arnold Palmer – to win the PGA Championship. Horschel’s closing round of 65 ensured he took the title by one from Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Laurie Canter.
Continuing the Ryder Cup theme, Horschel admitted inspiration had resonated in a strange snub from the US captain, Steve Stricker. Horschel, despite winning the WGC Match Play in Austin in March, was not apparently deemed worthy of contact by Stricker when missing out on a wildcard pick.
Stricker stated when naming his six choices that he made calls to those who had fallen short.
“There was a little added motivation this week,” Horschel said. “I thought I was going to get a phone call. I didn’t think it was going to be a phone call that said I made the team, but a phone call saying: ‘Hey, you had a great year, obviously we talked, but we’re going to go in a different direction.’ I didn’t get that phone call. I was a little upset. I was a little ticked. Gave me a little bit of fire in my butt.”