Commentary

Poulter picks playoffs, could have repercussions on Ryder Cup team

Originally Published: August 25, 2008
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Paul Azinger has no clear-cut choices when it comes to making his U.S. Ryder Cup captain's selections, but his counterpart in Europe, Nick Faldo, has a different predicament: too many players, too few spots.

Ian Poulter
Stuart Franklin/Getty ImagesIf Ian Poulter wants to play in the Ryder Cup come September, he likely will have to rely on a captain's pick from Nick Faldo.

The decision became more problematic Monday with the news that England's Ian Poulter has withdrawn from the last European qualifying event, this week's Johnnie Walker Classic in Scotland.

Poulter, who finished runner-up at the British Open to Padraig Harrington, decided to remain in the United States and play the Deutsche Bank Championship this week, opting to try to position himself in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Poulter, 32, who missed the cut at The Barclays last week, seems to be putting the playoffs over the Ryder Cup, although it could be more that he feels confident Faldo will make him one of his two at-large picks Sunday.

Trouble is, England's Paul Casey, who is 3-1-2 in two Ryder Cup appearances and finished seventh at The Barclays, and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, who won the Dutch Open on Sunday, are also serious contenders. And that is leaving out Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, who is having a poor year but remains one of Europe's most decorated players.

"I have called Nick Faldo and told him of my decision and hope that my performance so far this year will earn one of his two wildcard picks," Poulter said in a statement.

Poulter dropped to 89th in the FedEx Cup points and needs to make the cut this week to have a chance of advancing to next week's BMW Championship. He also needs one more PGA Tour event to meet the 15-tournament minimum for tour membership.

Poulter, whose only previous Ryder Cup experience came in 2004, is outside Europe's 10 automatic qualifiers. Europe picks its team based on a World Ranking list and a European Tour money list.

Of the Poulter, Casey, Clarke, Montgomerie foursome, Poulter was the only player with a chance to make the team on his own.

That is why Casey was openly rooting for Poulter last week with the hope that if the fashionable Brit qualified automatically, that would free up a captain's pick for someone such as himself.

"Everybody is talking about the sort of notable players, the guys who have played Ryder Cup before who are not on the team," Casey said. "Ian is one, Monty is the other, Darren Clarke. … And they have to be my rivals when it comes to a pick. So all I can do is play exceptionally good golf here, put myself on the radar in terms of what Nick is thinking, and if he doesn't have to pick Ian, then there's more chance that I might get picked. So I hope Ian plays well."

Now, it doesn't matter.

Unlike Azinger, who has four picks but no one who stands out among as many as 10 players, Faldo has only two selections -- and several very strong candidates.

Does he go with sentiment and pick Clarke and Montgomerie? Does he go with current form and go with Casey and Poulter? A combination of the two? And that doesn't even take into consideration Carl Pettersson and Daniel Chopra, both of Sweden, who have won tournaments during the qualifying period.

Poulter's scheduling decision has not made it any easier.

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

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com