Colin Montgomerie names his Ryder Cup Wildcards
The Johnnie Walker in Scotland and the Barclays in America were closely interwoven on a last day when Colin Montgomerie was finalising his European team for the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.
At Gleneagles, the 29-year-old Edoardo Molinari was an out-and-out star as he won the tournament and earned himself one of Monty's three wildcards for a side in which his 28-year-old brother, Francesco, had already secured an automatic berth.
A few hours later at the Barclays, a very much in-form Matt Kuchar came out on top and earned himself a place in the WGC-HSBC as he defeated Scotland's Martin Laird at the first extra hole. With Laird more an American Tour player than European, he was never under serious consideration for a place in Monty's side. However, the same did not apply to Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington. As Donald was in the process of finishing in a share of 15th place and Harrington was pulling up inside the top 50, Monty was reading out their names at Gleneagles as his two other picks.
There are between 70,000 and 100,000 Italian-Scots in Scotland and, to no-one's great surprise, Molinari's wild-card had the best of receptions. Earlier in the week, the player - and his many fans - had feared that Montgomerie would make all his choices from among the so-called 'Fed-Ex Four' of Harrington, Donald, Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
As it was, Montgomerie was ever more taken with the way Edoardo was playing and with the courage he showed in tying things up with three successive birdies.
Before he teed up at the 16th, Edoardo had seen a board showing how Australia's Brett Rumford had signed off with two birdies to finish at nine under par. Since he was only seven under at that stage, it was all too apparent what he had to do to beat him.
He caught the green in two at the par-five 16th en route to the first of his trio of birdies and then, at the short 17th, holed a swinging putt from all of 30 feet for the second. As the ball dropped, so he punched the air time and time again in the knowledge that he had to be making some kind of impression on the Ryder Cup captain.
At the last, he was short of the green in two but chipped close and holed out for a 71 and a win to set alongside the victory at Loch Lomond which had already qualified him for the WGC-HSBC in Shanghai.
Rumford had second place to himself as Francesco, after his closing 75, finished in a share of third.
Edoardo was hard put to believe that, this time last year, he had been nothing better than a humble Challenge Tour player. "This has been such a great day for me," he said. "To win and to get to play alongside my brother in the Ryder Cup is a dream come true."
When Montgomerie told him the good news, he had been sufficiently excited to promise that he and his brother would win all their matches.
After naming his wild cards, Montgomerie gave details of his thinking process.
Harrington had got the nod because he was a man of three majors and opponents feared him accordingly; Donald had stood out because of a Ryder Cup record in which he had lost only one game in five starts.
When he came to Molinari, the captain began with a rhetorical, "What can I say about Edoardo?" The Scot added that in his 24 years on the European Tour, he had never seen "a finish of that quality under such pressure by anyone, ever.
"All credit goes to him for having come here having to win and doing so - and joining his brother as the first brother partnership that's ever played on either team in the Ryder Cup."
Though there will almost certainly be those who will argue that Casey and Rose should have been given captain's picks, this was the only area where Montgomerie was unequivocally wrong. The three Whitcombe brothers, Charlie, Earnest and Reg, played in the Ryder Cup of 1935, while the two Hunts, Bernard and Geoff, were in the side of 1965.
|back to news listing|