Harrington secures Ryder Cup spot

Europe Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie has named Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari as his three wild card picks to face America at Celtic Manor on October 1-3.

Europe Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie has named Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari as his three wild card picks to face America at Celtic Manor on October 1-3.

Paul Casey and Justin Rose will not be part of Europe’s bid to win back the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in just over a month.

Colin Montgomerie, faced with arguably the most difficult decision any captain has had regarding wild cards, tonight named Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari as the three men to complete his line-up.

They join automatic qualifiers Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher, Francesco Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Peter Hanson.

Because the so-called FedEx Four – Harrington, Casey, Donald and Rose – chose to stay in America in the last two weeks when returning to Europe could have seen them qualify, Montgomerie was left with five players in the world top 22 chasing a pick.

He had leave one of the four out and it also left him facing calls to omit another because they put their US Tour careers ahead of the Ryder Cup.

Montgomerie asked them all to play at Gleneagles and they all turned him down, but the Scot, who was critical of Poulter for doing the same two years ago, insisted that at the end of the day his job was to pick the strongest side.

No brothers have played in the same match since Bernhard and Geoff Hunt in 1963 and Edoardo Molinari piled on the pressure with a three-birdie finish to win the Johnnie Walker Championship in dramatic fashion.

Meanwhile, Rose was lying fifth, Casey and Harrington 12th and Donald 28th with a round to go in New Jersey, but Montgomerie chose not to wait for the final result there before making his announcement.

In Harrington’s favour was that he was the only three-time major winner amongst the candidates. Against him, though, was the fact that he did not win a game either in the defeat two years ago or the nine-point victory at The K Club in 2006.

The biggest pluses for Donald, who missed the last match following wrist surgery, were that he has lost only one of seven cup games, has a perfect four wins out of four in foursomes, was third at Celtic Manor in June’s Wales Open and was ranked 10th in the world.

Casey was one higher than that and his head-to-head record also strengthened his hand. He won the World Match Play at Wentworth in 2006 and was a finalist in the last two WGC-Accenture Championships in Arizona.

Against that, he needed a wild card last time after staying in the States then as well and scored only two half-points from three games.

Rose was much more successful with three points out of four on his debut, partnering Poulter to two wins and beating Phil Mickelson no less in the singles.

He has played less than anybody in Europe this season, though, and after two brilliant US Tour victories earlier this summer he missed the halfway cut in the last two majors – just like Harrington.

And then there was Edoardo Molinari, whose brother clinched his debut on Thursday when England’s Ross McGowan pulled out of the final counting event through injury.

They won the World Cup together last November and Edoardo, winner of Europe’s “second division” Challenge Tour last season, also stakes his claims by winning the Dunlop Phoenix title in Japan and the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond - as well as coming second to Ernie Els in the US Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Against him, though, was his lack of experience both in majors and the Ryder Cup – and, of course, Montgomerie already had five debutants in McIlroy, Kaymer, Fisher, Francesco Molinari and Hanson.

Out from the last team are Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Oliver Wilson, Soren Hansen, Casey and Rose.

Only eight of the American side are known at the moment. Captain Corey Pavin adds four wild cards on Tuesday week and Tiger Woods is among those waiting for a call.

After announcing that Sergio Garcia will join the team as a fourth vice-captain, Montgomerie went on to explain the reasons behind his three picks.

He said: “Padraig Harrington has won three major championships in the last three years...the stature of Padraig...he is someone we feel that nobody in matchplay golf wants to play.

“He is a great competitor and someone that will bring everything to the team that we know about European golf.

“Luke Donald has played seven times in Ryder Cup and has lost only once.

“And Edoardo Molinari, what can one say about his performance today?

“In my time on the European Tour, over 24 years, I have never seen a finish like that. All credit to him, having to win and doing just that.”

When asked about what had counted against Casey and Rose, he added: ``I would rather talk about the strengths of the ones I have picked.

“I feel sorry for Paul Casey and Justin Rose, he has won twice in the USA this year and is doing well in the Barclays at the moment.

“I and my team had to leave out two world stars and I am afraid they are the world stars left out on this occasion.”

Montgomerie suggested he already knew his three picks before the Gleneagles event but admitted this evening he may have been stretching the truth.

He said: “I was lying at that stage!

“What Edoardo Molinari did this week was incredible, he is the kind of player we need to regain the Ryder Cup.

“I have managed to speak to some of the players today, to let people know of a decision which will go against them.

“I haven’t spoken to Paul Casey as he is playing but I have spoken to Justin Rose as he was on the driving range.

“But I thought it was better for him to hear from me.

“I must have made a dozen phone calls today, I wasn’t on to apologise because we have an embarrassment of riches.”

Asked if had pulled rank over his vice-captains (Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Paul McGinley and Garcia), Montgomerie replied: ``I have not managed to pull rank at this stage and that's a good thing.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have three (and now four) vice-captains. I spoke to Sergio in Spain for his advice this afternoon.

“We are all unanimous in our decision that we have the strongest possible team for Europe.”

Montgomerie, responding to how he felt about a European player in the world top 10 (Casey) not making the European team, said: “I don’t feel hamstrung by the qualifying process.

“I just want to think positively about the team that we have selected. I think the three picks are strong in every way. We are thinking about pairings.

“Since my day – I was a Ryder Cup rookie in 1991 – I don’t think any captain has had the difficulty I have had today picking three from a possible 10.

“It has been fraught in so many ways but watching Edoardo birdie the last three holes, he has made our job very easy for us with his performance today.”

Montgomerie said it was not the case that Edoardo Molinari had to win at Gleneagles to be one of the three wild cards.

“It made our job easier that he did win but I don’t think he had to win. What he did in the first three rounds was enough to show us that this player can handle incredible pressure.

“I don’t think I have to tell you who his partner will be in the fourballs or foursomes.”

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