<
>

Paul Casey strikes out in Ryder Cup bid

LEMONT, Ill. -- If it is possible to smile and bite your lip at the same time, Paul Casey is doing a good job of it these days.

The Englishman, understandably, is trying to move on from the devastating developments that occurred in Scotland last week when captain Colin Montgomerie left him off his European Ryder Cup team.

Casey talks about getting over the snub quickly, about taking a vacation during the Oct. 1-3 matches in Wales, about gaining little by complaining.

But through the smile, you can see the pain. And in listening to his words, you can tell he is choosing them carefully, trying not to spew more gasoline on a fire that will surely continue to burn -- especially if the Europeans fail to recapture the Cup.

"The facts were there," Casey said Friday. "I did pick up some stuff about not supporting the [European] Tour, and I know the facts. I know how many I played in European compared to guys who were picked, so I'm not even going to get into that."

And that is about as close to controversy as Casey would get after shooting a 2-under-par 69 at Cog Hill, putting himself in a tie for fourth and in contention at the BMW Championship along with countrymen Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Justin Rose.

Ranked ninth in the world, Casey was left off the European team -- which he has been part of during the past three Ryder Cups -- in favor of Donald, Italy's Edoardo Molinari and Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

Molinari won twice on the European Tour this year, including the final qualifying event, the Johnnie Walker Championship. And Donald is ranked eighth in the world and had won a tournament in Europe in addition to finishing third at the Wales Open, on the course where the Ryder Cup will be played.

But Harrington has not won for two years, played poorly in the last two Ryder Cups and played in two fewer European Tour events than Casey.

Those in Europe have taken to trying to explain how this could be.

"The unkind truth is the Englishman is very unpopular amongst his peers," wrote Lawrence Donegan, a columnist for the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. "Did this count against him ... when Montgomerie and his vice captains sat down to argue over the three picks? We will never know. But what we can surely assume is that Casey's popularity (or lack thereof) counted against him in the year-long lobbying campaign that surrounds matters of Ryder Cup team selection."

Popular or not, it would appear to be a strange way to pick a team.

Don't you pick the best players?

Donald, Harrington, Casey and Justin Rose -- who won twice this year on the PGA Tour and was not picked -- have been derisively referred to in Europe as the "FedEx Four" because they all chose to compete in the first Fed Ex event, the Barclays, rather than play a European Tour event in Scotland where they might have been able to make the team on their own.

Harrington complicates matters because of his good-guy status, the fact that he has won three majors, his ability to get along with just about anyone -- save for Sergio Garcia, who will be a vice captain and not a player this time.

It is clear that Casey is being punished for failing to play enough in Europe, for not supporting his home tour in the manner that would be appreciated. He has also been accused of being prickly with the media, but he has been nothing short of a class act in dealing with the fallout.

Casey lives in Arizona, is married to an American and has been playing the PGA Tour for a decade -- although he retains European Tour membership because Ryder Cup hopefuls are required to do so.

His third-place finish at the Open Championship, back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Accenture Match Play Championship and even a win at the European Tour's World Match Play Championship a few years back were overlooked.

"I think with guys like [Martin] Kaymer, [Graeme] McDowell and possibly others in the near future joining the PGA Tour, we could have a situation where, what are we going to do?" Casey said. "And I understand the European Tour wants to protect the European Tour. But we also want to get the best team possible. I don't know what the solution is."

The European team is chosen from players on two points lists, one based on the world rankings and the other from European Tour money earnings.

Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Kaymer and McDowell got the four points from the world rankings portion. Ross Fisher, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez and Poulter made it from the European points list.

Had the two lists been reversed, Harrington, Edoardo Molinari and Donald would have made the team, and Casey then would have been an obvious at-large pick not subject to politics.

"It's really tough," said American Hunter Mahan, who made the U.S. team. "He's been a staple on that team for a few years and a great player. The picks were definitely more European [Tour]-based."

Poulter, who made the team on his own and faced similar scrutiny two years ago when captain Nick Faldo chose him, said he was "gutted" for his fellow Englishmen Casey and Rose. Poulter and Rose made a formidable pairing at Valhalla.

Making matter worse was the awkward way in which the news came about -- Monty having his news conference in Scotland at the same time that the "FedEx Four" were on the golf course during the final round of the Barclays. Monty had no choice but to leave Casey a voicemail message.

"We've been relaying messages," Casey said of the aftermath. "Monty is a friend. He was in a very difficult position. We share the same manager. No, he's a friend."

What Casey left out was that he even attended Monty's wedding two years ago.

Amazing stuff, but Casey said he can no longer fret. He's planning a biking trip in neutral territory -- Canada -- during the week of the Ryder Cup.

And he has been buoyed by the reaction of American fans, who have been sympathetic and supportive.

"I've heard a lot, actually," Casey said. "But the really funny one -- I got a guy in Boston, I made a long putt on the sixth for birdie, and he goes, 'If that's the way you putt, I'm glad they didn't pick you.'"

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.