European captain Jose Maria Olazabal hailed Ian Poulter’s Ryder Cup “attitude and spirit” after naming him and Nicolas Colsaerts as his two wild card picks for the clash with the United States next month.
Poulter has won seven of his last eight Cup clashes and Olazabal recognised his determination will be key for the encounter at Medinah in Chicago on September 28-30.
“Everyone of you guessed Ian was going to be there for obvious reasons,” said Olazabal.
“He has a great Ryder Cup record, he was playing well – he had some issues earlier in the season, he got ill and he couldn’t play as much – but he is cured and his attitude and spirit in the Ryder Cup team has always been great.
“He likes to be in that situation, it gets the best out of him playing the Ryder Cup.”
Colsaerts will become the first Belgian to play in the Ryder Cup – and the only uncapped player in Europe’s side.
“Nicolas is a rookie, the only rookie in the team, we have an experienced team,” he added.
“His matchplay record is very good, he has a very solid season.
“And on top of that he has made the extra effort to try to make the team. He showed me he wanted to be a part of the team.”
Olazabal admitted it was tough informing the players who had missed out.
“It’s never an easy decision,” he said. “Obviously there’s a few more players in the mix every time. I talked to the vice-captains quite a bit regarding the picks. We studied different possibilities. We had a few discussions regarding that. The last time we talked was on Friday this week.
“It’s not an easy moment. They are all disappointed. I know they really wanted to be in the team. I talked to the next four or five guys on the list – I talked to David [Lynn], to Rafa [Cabrera Bello], Alvaro [Quiros] and Padraig [Harrington]. I made those phone calls. It’s not easy. I’ve been in that equation. They took the news well. That’s the way it is.”
Asked when he made his mind up, he replied: “It was made up yesterday. David still had a chance [of an automatic spot] if he finished in the top two [in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles]. I had to wait until the last minute and the decision was made last night.”
Olazabal believes Colsaerts’ game will be perfectly suited for the Medinah course.
“Medinah Country Club is a long course,” he said. “They built two or three new tees and made 15 a reachable par four. Length can be a factor. At the end of the day we all know the important thing is how many putts you make.
“His game is suited for that golf course. It depends how the golf course is set up regarding rough but it’s a long course and I think he can take advantage of that.”
There have been concerns over the form of Germany’s Martin Kaymer – an automatic qualifier – heading into the event, but Olazabal’s mind was put at ease by a chat with the former world number one yesterday.
“I talked to Martin yesterday,” the Spaniard said. “We had a chat on the phone. He’s been working really hard the last two weeks after the PGA Championship.
“He’s very happy with the work he’s put in and the results on the driving range. He’s going to play in Holland and Italy and we’ll have a pretty good idea on how his game is.
“Don’t be mistaken – he wants to be part of that team. He’s determined to give his best. He made that point very clear to me yesterday. I don’t think I’m going to have any issues regarding Martin.”
Poulter said: "I am absolutely thrilled obviously to have got the call last night from Jose. It was a great moment."
Colsaerts added: “This is something I have wanted since I was a little kid, to be a part of such a big team with a captain with such great history. It is something I am very proud of.
“I am living proof that if you want something badly it is only a matter of time if you put the work in. It’s a bit of a fairy story.”
Europe have won four of the last five Ryder Cups, including last time out at Celtic Manor, but Olazabal insists he does not see his side as favourites heading in next month's competition and believes they will need to play "very very well'' to retain their crown.
He said: “I’ve always said that I don’t see any favourites in this Ryder Cup, both teams are playing very strong.
“The US team is always strong, they’ve played great, they won the Masters this year, the US Open, they’ve won a bunch of tournaments, three rookies in that team so far have played extraordinarily well.
“In that regard both teams are strong, I don’t see any favourites at all.
“They have the home advantage, they are going to set up the course to their liking, and we are going to have play really very very well and with heart if we are going to have a chance to win.”
Regarding the omission of Harrington, Olazabal said: “I talked to him last night and I was very straight to the point.
“I know he tried hard, he played well at The Masters, he had a good US Open and the following week he had a great Irish Open, but he was 19th on the list, he was just a little down the list.
“I know he’s a great player, I would’ve loved to have him in the team, the same way I would have loved to have Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson…great players, but you need to be playing good, simple as that. I think he took it well.”
Olazabal also dismissed any suggestion that picking the uncapped Colsaerts represented a gamble.
He said: “If you look at my team we do have a huge amount of experience, out of the 12 players, 11 have played Ryder Cup.
“They’ve proven they can handle the pressure, they have that experience. We have a very solid team in that regard.
“I don’t think it’s a gamble. When you look at the next guys on the line, the next guy with Ryder Cup experience would have been Thomas Bjorn.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a gamble in that regard. The guy has shown a lot of heart, a lot of character.
We know that the Ryder Cup atmosphere is different to any regular event, even major events, but I think he’s got the game, and the desire and determination to be there has been huge.”