European captain Padraig Harrington named two of Europe’s greatest Ryder Cup players – Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter – as two of his wildcards and fellow Irishman and rookie Shane Lowry as his third.
It had been fairly well signposted that Harrington would pick Garcia, who has won more points for Europe than anyone in ten appearances, and Poulter, “The Postman” who has been such a totem for so many captains in the Ryder Cup.
The third selection would be the most contentious, given that the other contenders were Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, central figures in the last two wins, but perhaps tellingly as foursome and fourball partners.
Lowry ‘doesn’t feel like a rookie’
But Harrington reasoned that his countryman, the former Open champion from 2019, “did not feel like a rookie”, was a major champion and would prove a key team-mate at Whistling Straits in two weeks.
“He is a rookie but we don’t think of him that way,” he said. “He’s a major champion, he’s won a WGC event, and he’ll be a great partner and team mate.”
“I’m thrilled at my team,” said Harrington. “They match up superbly. I’m not hiding any players. They could all play in every match.”
He said he particularly had his eye on Justin Rose and Alex Noren as potential picks, but “that’s not how it works”.
“Ian and Sergio are the heart and soul of the Ryder Cup team so I had to go with them. Shane has been playing great golf all year, so Justin had to play his way in.
“He played well here, and Alex Noren’s stats were perfect. I’d hjave loved to have them on my team. But as good as they were, there was just no place for them.
Lowry’s aim since winning the Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 has been to play for Europe.
“It’s amazing, for me it’s been a career long goal,” said Lowry. “It has been especially for the last few years. Padraig being captain is extra special for me as he’s a very good friend.”
A stressful week and a stressful wait
Captain @Padraig_H has announced his Ryder Cup Captain's Picks for Team Europe.
Ian Poulter pic.twitter.com/qVVGo4EiCZ
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 12, 2021
“It’s been a stressful week and a stressful two hours,” he said. “I was sat in the players’ lounge with my Dad and some friends just being nervous.
“Then I got a call to go to the office – to the principal’s office if you like! Padraig was there and told me and gave me a hug.
“We all back ourselves as professionals. I thought I’d done enough before this week. Then you come here and see the other guys and think about what you have to do.
“I love this tournament, so I want to win, to make the team at the same time. I think I gave it good shot.”
Lowry said he was determined to be a positive force for Europe in the team room and most of all on the course.
“There’s no point going to make the numbers, I want to deliver and win points for Europe. I hope it’s going to be a special week, but mostly I want to go and make it count.”
The rookies ‘are tried and tested’
SERGIO GARCIA 🇪🇸
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 12, 2021
Poulter said the team “weighs very nicely for fourballs and foursomes”.
“Those rookies aren’t really rookies, they’re tried and tested,” he said. “It’s a strong team. I’m pleased when I look at it, and we’ve got options across the board.”
After finishing at Wentworth Rose said he’d felt he’d made a case but was focusing on his own career.
“I have got a bigger plan at the minute,” said Rose. “I am enjoying re-committing myself to my game and I feel like I am on a path of moving forward again.
“I’m not going to let it derail me, for sure. It will be a blow of course. But it will give me an unwanted couple of weeks to recuperate.
“I’ve given it a shot. If it doesn’t go my way, I’ll say good luck to the boys and cheer them on anyway.”