The Most Controversial Ryder Cup Selection Snubs
THERE is always going to be debate and controversy when it comes to captain’s picks at any Ryder Cup. The only way to eliminate it would be for both teams to have 12 automatic qualifiers. But that is highly unlikely ever to happen.
Take this year’s teams as an example. On the American side, Keegan Bradley, who finished 11th in the final standings, made his feelings abundantly clear. He was gutted not to be picked by Zach Johnson amid suggestions that his face just doesn’t fit. And you can be sure that Cameron Young, who ended the campaign in ninth place, was none too happy when Johnson called him to tell him he hadn’t been chosen.
On the European side, Yannik Paul was quick to take to social media to let everybody know that he was none too happy to miss out. And you have to feel sorry for Adrian Meronk, who played his heart out all year in a bid to make the European team but was overlooked in favour of Ludvig Aberg who only turned professional in June.
There have been many others over the years who still feel aggrieved at not being chosen. Here, we look at just a few of them:
2021 - Kevin Na & Patrick Reed
Na has always been a Marmite golfer - as has Reed. But he played superbly throughout 2021 only to be told by US captain Steve Stricker that he would not be going to Whistling Straits. Reed styles himself as Captain America and loves representing his country. He fully expected to get the nod but was overlooked. Quite simply, he hadn’t played well enough.
2016 Russell Knox
Knox was ranked 20th in the world when the team was chosen for Hazeltine and was seventh in the FedEx Cup standings, but was overlooked in favour of Thomas Pieters (41st in the world), Lee Westwood (46th) and Martin Kaymer (50th).
2014 - Chris Kirk & Billy Horschel
Kirk won twice during the 2015 season and was regarded by many as a shoo-in. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship but when Tom Watson named his team the following day, Kirk’s name was nowhere to be seen. He was left out in favour of Webb Simpson, who had missed the cut in three of that year’s majors. The USA were thrashed by Europe at Gleneagles, with Simpson contributing half a point. Watson announced his team and Billy Horschel promptly won the FedEx Cup - the hottest player on the PGA Tour had to sit at home and watch events unfold on TV.
2010 - Paul Casey
Was there ever a more controversial omission than Casey. At the time, he was ranked inside the top 10 in the world and had nearly won The Open at St Andrews but he was left out in favour of Padraig Harrington, who was playing horribly at the time. To say that Casey was bitter is one of life’s great understatements.
2008 - Darren Clarke
Nick Faldo made many bizarre decisions as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain but surely the worst of those was deciding to travel to the USA without Darren Clarke, who had played in the event on five occasions and had won twice in 2008. He was left out in favour of Ian Poulter and said: "Half of the guys have been in touch over the last day to say how disappointed they are for me, and to say how surprised they are that I won't be going with them," Clarke told the Guardian. "I have to say I was quite surprised myself.”
2006 - Thomas Bjorn
It is fair to say that Ian Woosnam, who was European captain in 2006, is still not on Bjorn’s Christmas card list. He was ranked 24th in the world at the time but Woosnam opted to pick Lee Westwood, who had struggled all year. Bjorn said: “I’m shocked and have totally lost respect for Ian. So far his captaincy has been the most pathetic I have ever seen. The man is barmy - to be captain and not communicate with a team or those in contention at all. I haven’t spoken to him for six months, and then I find that I’m not in the team by watching it on television. How can that be right?” In Woosnam's defence, Europe hammered the USA at The K Club.
1999- Bob Estes & Fred Couples
Estes needed to finish fifth at the PGA Championship to automatically qualify for the team. He finished sixth, but with two top 10s at majors he was expected to grab a spot. So was Couples, who reached as high as No 10 in the world rankings that year. But captain Ben Crenshaw went with veterans Steve Pate and Tom Lehman, and though controversial, his picks worked, as Pate and Lehman both went 2-1-0 in the US victory at Brookline.
1999 - Nick Faldo
Faldo was widely expected to be picked for a record 12th time, but Mark James had other ideas and instead chose Andrew Coltart and Jesper Parnevik. Bizarrely, he then didn’t play Coltart until the singles, on the day that the USA stormed back from a 10-6 deficit to win at Brookline. James would later claim in a book that Faldo tried to undermine the European effort.
1997 - Miguel Angel Martin
This is a bizarre one. Martin qualified for the European team despite missing a part of the summer nursing an injury. Captain Seve Ballesteros, however, told Martin he wanted him to play host course Valderrama to prove he was fit enough to play. Martin was still recovering from surgery and refused, so Seve made two separate captain's picks. “I think this is an economic problem, not personal," said Martin. "It’s not the same having Miguel Angel Martin playing Tiger Woods as having Nick Faldo playing Tiger Woods.”
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