Faldo ploughs his own furrow

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Nick Faldo has always been a bit left field, and his decision to choose Ian Poulter ahead of Darren Clarke really put the ‘wild’ into his ‘wild card’ picks. No one saw that one coming at Gleneagles, where a poll of 32 tour players had him picking Clarke ahead of Poulter. Indded, most experts thought he would go with Clarke and Casey. Some thought he might just go with Clarke and Poulter. No one predicted Casey and Poulter.

The press, who have always been a bit suspicious of Faldo ever since his ‘heart of my bottom’ victory speech at Muirfield in 1992, had a field day after his decision; and the fact that some former players and captains were prepared to go on record criticising Faldo just added to the spice.

One of Faldo’s most vociferous critics was the respected Sky Sports commentator, Ewen Murray, who coaches Clarke. He said he was up until 1.30 a.m. the next morning, speaking to Clarke on the phone, telling him what to say to the press.

“Should Ian have been picked?” he asked in his column for Sky Sports. “Of course he shouldn’t….At the start of the qualifying process, Nick said he would use his wild cards on players that are in form. Over these last few months, he has decided not to choose that route and has gone on a hunch that Ian Poulter is running into form. Really? Here is a player who is fresh off two missed cuts. A player who has had one round under 68 all year withy no victories. A player who has competed in all of the world golf championships and majors, played mainly in America where the world ranking points are considerably higher than that of Europe and has failed to make the team through the world points system.”

The Irish press were not surprisingly especially vitriolic. Karl McGintey, writing in the Irish Independent said: “Nick Faldo should be congratulated. He’s managed to make one of the craziest decisions by a European captain in 27 years at the Ryder Cup. Not since 1981, shen Seve Ballesteros was left out of the team at Walton Heath, has any European player had to absorb a punch in the solar plexus as sickening as that dealt to Darren Clarke.”

And while Clarke said all the right things in public (“It’s the captains decision and I wish the team all the luck in the world”) Lawrence Donegan of The Guardian managed to tease him into admitting that “half of the guys [in the team] 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. I have to say I was quite surprised myself.”

Clarke went on to say: “I spoke to Nick for less than a minute. He just told me that I wasn’t going to be one of his captain’s picks. He didn’t offer an explanation for his choice and I didn’t ask him. Two wins and five top-10 finishes wasn’t bad for the season, and to be honest I thought I had done enough. All year I had been reading that Nick’s main thing was going to be picking players on form.”

Faldo has made his choice, and as he admits himself, he will have to stand by it. What will be interesting is if on the evening of September 21st, when the final result of the match is known, Europe have lost for the first time this century. Then, questions about his selection policy are bound to be asked.

 


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