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Favourites floored by friendly fire

  • Jay Townsend - Former European Tour player
  • 5 Sep 06, 06:27 PM

jay_townsend55x55.jpg USA - So the European team has been finalized. The 12 chosen sacrificial lambs have been named……..

Oh, sorry, that is for my blog in America. Just kidding!!!

The European team looks very good top to bottom. Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood are very solid captain’s picks, although both come with question marks, especially if you believe what Thomas Bjorn had to say about Westwood being chosen.

I just feel Darren might be a bit fragile mentally to be put under so much pressure so soon after Heather’s passing.

Lee has not had the kind of year that either Ian Woosnam nor he had hoped for, but Lee does bring a lot of Ryder Cup experience to the team.

I wonder, how does a guy like Carl Pettersson get experience? He totally outplayed all but possibly two or three of Europe’s Ryder Cup team, having won twice on the US PGA Tour in the past 10 months. So, on what basis was he not chosen?

That question just seems to keep popping into my head. I know not everyone can make a 12-man roster, but this guy has played really well. Would he, if he were British, have been chosen?

With the match still just over two weeks away, it seems first blood has been drawn, and at the hands of friendly fire no less. Courtesy of Thomas Bjorn, Ian Woosnam has now been blooded as a captain.

The Americans put up a VERY united front when they all flew over to Ireland together last week for a couple days' of practice, albeit in horrific conditions.

Can captain Lehman bring 12 individuals together, who for the first time in history will not be favourites, and win back the Cup?

How will the Europeans handle being favourites for the first time? Will the added pressure be too much?

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:10 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • James T wrote:

I agree that Clarke is a risk as, inspite of his obvious pedigree, his tragic personal circumstances have been the very worst preparation, both physically and mentally.

I also agree that for all the talk of Westwood or Bjorn it seems that Petterson was somewhat overlooked. On paper he's probably the next best available, but because he plays exclusively in the US I'm not sure how well he knows the other Europeans. Team spirit is a big deal when it comes to Europe's Ryder cup success.

That leaves Bjorn and Westwood, both of whom have good Ryder cup credentials. Bjorn's had the better season overall but Westwood's hit better form recently, and showed good character in playing last week at the captain's request inspite of poor health.

All in all, Woosie had 4 good players to pick from and I wouldn't have argued with whichever 2 he went for. I'm mystified by the flack he's been getting both from Bjorn and the comments on this forum!

  • 2.
  • At 07:23 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Kenneth wrote:

I do not think that it was intentional that two "brits" were chosen for the wild cards. The wild cards have been randomly given to brits and mainlanders alike, except for the past two ryder cups, in where only brits have been selected.
And in 2004 it was a German who selected them.

Despite Woosie's lack of leadership talent, I'm sure the european team, headed by Monty will get through it.

  • 3.
  • At 07:44 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Jake Parrott wrote:

Jay, Jay, your show, babe...but what year did you represent the US in the Ryder Cup?

  • 4.
  • At 08:16 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • peter dennis wrote:

Jay, the BBC have inadvertently promoted you, I think - "Former US Ryder Cup player"?

  • 5.
  • At 09:33 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Matt wrote:

Is there trouble amongst the Euro's?
As an American coming to watch the Cup, it's nice to see all the talk about the Euro's lack of team unity instead of the American's for once.

  • 6.
  • At 09:36 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Jonas wrote:

I understand that you all worry about Darren's state of mind just a couple of weeks after burying his wife. But still, it's not like it came out of the blue - neither the death of Heather nor the Ryder Cup.

I'm sure he'd had time to adjust for both.

I wouldn't want to be him right now, but I still think that if he says he's up for it, he really is.

Don't get me wrong though, it's an awful tragedy that his wife died.

  • 7.
  • At 09:37 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • K en wrote:

I am from Ireland living in the US a long time. I hope the favourite tag does not come back to haunt us. It is a bit like years ago when nobody here knew some of the European team, including Clarke and McGinley. The likes of JJ Henry are great players and a lot of bonding is going on within the American team. It should be a wonderful competition, but, let us not get too cocky.

  • 8.
  • At 07:50 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Tom Kennedy wrote:

The fact that two "Brits" have been chosen has nothing to do with who the Captain is. Carl Petterson has had a great year but there are only 2 Wild Cards and, anyway, if he really wanted to qualify for the team he should have played some more tournaments in Europe. It is a rare occurrence to have a rookie picked as a Wild Card and I think Woosie has picked well with Lee and Darren. Both have great records at the K-Club and they have proven invaluable as a partnership and as overall team members in recent Ryder Cup matches. The Bjorn situation should help galvanise the team further and I think this is probably one of the strongest ever European teams assembled. Good luck to Woosie and the Boys, lets keep the Cup in Europe!!

  • 9.
  • At 08:46 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Jay Townsend wrote:

Although I would have loved to have played the Ryder Cup, let's be honest, I was not in the Ryder Cup "league" so to speak. Hey, maybe that's why I hold a microphone these days. :)

You all are making some very good points. I love hearing what everyone has to say. It is going to be a VERY EXCITING Match.

More to come.

Just a note to apologise for my incorrect billing of Jay as a former Ryder Cup player earlier. I've now corrected this. Pretty poor, sorry - the result of something being lost in translation between the guys writing on the blog and those of us (me) setting it up back at base.

Claire, blog editor.

  • 11.
  • At 09:10 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • James B wrote:

I am not sure where this talk of US unity and European unrest is emanating from.

Just because the American team has managed to find a gap in their busy schedules to play the course together does not suggest that the selfish and insulated attitude fostered on the US Tour will not resurface once the action starts and they realise they are not being payed to appear.

On the European Team side, I don't think the Bjorn issue will have any effect on the players and does not indicate a lack of unity. If Woosnam gets his pairings right Europe will win because we have strength in depth.

  • 12.
  • At 09:46 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Bob G wrote:

Although I agree Europe have strength in Depth the Americans have quality players that could easily defeat the Europeans with any selection of pairings. Personaly I think the 4 US rookies and Europes McGinley will not play many matches!!

  • 13.
  • At 10:09 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • PB wrote:

At the end of the day you've got to go with experience and recent form. On that basis Woosie got it right. Where he got it wrong was the way he handled what was always going to be a difficult situation - Bjorn could surely have been located prior to the Press Conference (as a matter of courtesy) and it makes no sense to alienate Langer. Being the Captain is more than just picking 2 wildcards and pulling pairings out of a hat. The sooner Woosie learns this the better. Rest assured Faldo won't be making these kind of errors come 2008.

  • 14.
  • At 10:56 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Adrian Brewster wrote:

This article is spot on and we need to take heed. The US mentality will pounce on this "lack of unity" and it is perhaps in Woosnam's interest to put on a "unified show of strength". Ok the focus is/was on Bjorn's recent rant/rave but two other individual's should also take a bit of blame also. Montgomerie for his undermining of Olazabal's non-appearance in Munich and Langer for his open criticism of Woosnam and 'spiritual' support for Tom Lehman!!! Come on Woosie get the European Team out for a spot of paint balling or a good night of Karoake - And don't forget to invite the press. Good PR is what he needs right now - Give Max Clifford a ring !!!!!

  • 15.
  • At 12:04 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Darren Thomas wrote:

Darren Clarke being chosen shouldn't cause a problem if he says he is OK. In fact, it may lessen the pressure on him as he will now see how insignificent the Ryder Cup is compared to the other issues in his life recently.

Thomas Bjorn showed the disappointment any sportsman would feel at being left out of such an important event. He has also had the sense to apologise and get behind the team.

The favourites tag is an added pressure but once out on the course it shouldn't affect professional golfers who play under pressure week in, week out.

  • 16.
  • At 12:32 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • HUGH WILSON wrote:

Lets get on with it !!!. When was the last time we have not had a wee disaggreement regarding selection. The players will be up for it. If they fail it will be Woosie who takes the flack. Six of us going to the K club on the Thursday from Scotland and spending four unforgetable days, we hope. Lets get behind the team . We know there will be tears . Let them be Victory tears !!!!.

ps. Got the tartan trews out. The Tartan Army will be at the K Club !!!

  • 17.
  • At 12:37 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Jonny English wrote:

Franky, who cares whether Europe or America wins? It's just one bunch of millionaires playing another. At least with football you don't have to watch the players trudge around for hours on end. How dull is that?

  • 18.
  • At 12:39 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Rusty wrote:

I'm shocked at how inept Woosie has been so far at captaining the side. He has handled the media poorly and doesnt seem to have a plan of action (unlike Tom Lehman). I'm not entirely surprised to be honest, and would be much happier if he had recruited some decent "deputies". The basic qualities of leadership seem to be lacking in him unfortunately. If Europe win this one it will be nothing to do with their Captain.

  • 19.
  • At 01:07 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • John in Maine wrote:

As a Brit living in the US, I can not wait for the match to start...Regarding the earlier comment, speculating on the two wild card picks being awarded to Clarke and Westwood simply because they are British, I have to strongly disagree...From the start, there was always evidence that as many Irish as possible would be picked, if possible, as to bolster the team with Irish players is sound common sense, given their passion for the sport and their fellow countrymen in general. Bi-partisanship is simply not possible in Ryder cup and, like it or not, the crowd play quite a big part in the outcome these days...I believe the crowd will be well behaved though and as friendly and welcoming as only the Irish can be...Regarding Westwood's inclusion, if Woosie picks Clarke, then Westwood is a natural choice. It would have been like having Laurel without Hardy, Eric without Ernie - you get the point. I have a feeling that Darren and Lee might well form a 'spine' partnership and get a few points...Europe to win by 4! Ode to Joy!

  • 20.
  • At 01:27 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Andy wrote:

I think Clarke is an excellent wildcard pick. He has an excellent record in the Ryder Cup, is generally regarded as one of the best european players of recent years and one more VERY important point..... He's Irish! I dont think this can be played down as the European team are bound to get fantastic support from the crowd but I think having McGinley and Clarke in the team will just give us that bit extra.

My money is on Clarke (possibly with McGinley) in the first pair out to get the supporters going.

  • 21.
  • At 01:31 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Andy wrote:

I think Clarke is an excellent wildcard pick. He has an excellent record in the Ryder Cup, is generally regarded as one of the best european players of recent years and one more VERY important point..... He's Irish! I dont think this can be played down as the European team are bound to get fantastic support from the crowd but I think having McGinley and Clarke in the team will just give us that bit extra.

If there had just been McGinley in the team and he either didnt play much or played very poorly this might have effected crowd moral / support.

My money is on Clarke (possibly with McGinley) in the first pair out to get the supporters going.

One other point I would like to make is that the Wildcard picks are exactly that..... Wildcards, the captain can picks who he likes for his own reasons.... If the Wildcards were picked on form, rankings and points acrued then whats the point of having them? No matter who he picked its the right decision (until proven otherwise).

  • 22.
  • At 01:52 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Tony J wrote:

I don't know what all the fuss is about regarding the wild card picks. Personally I would have picked both Jimenez and Poulter ahead of either Bjorn or Petterson. As for Woosnam's captaincy skills, I worry a lot. His performance so far has been, if not 'pathetic' then below par at best. I thought he was a poor choice when selected. I agree that this is close to the strongest European team ever on paper, and we should win, even if the Americans are being underestimated. I only hope that poor captaincy doesn't lose us the cup.

  • 23.
  • At 02:19 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Owen wrote:

Westwood's record at the K Club European Open from '99 - W, W, 62 (Clarke won), 16, 9, 2, 13, 4. Top 16 in 7 out of 8 years seems like a pretty good record to me.
Bjorn was leading in '05 but slumped to an 86 on the final day when leading going into it.
Nuff said!

  • 24.
  • At 02:25 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Rich R in West Midlands wrote:

Having been fortunate enough to attend 5 Ryder Cup's, on both European and American soil, i can guarantee that it doesn't matter how many thousands the USPGA spent on sending the American team over to the K Club for a 'bonding session' i don't think any one the players (including Woods) will be ready for the pressure they will feel on the first tee on that Friday Morning.

Plus, to increase the heat to a greater level there couldn't be a better mental boost for the European spectators (or Darren Clarke himself), than to see Clarke team-up at the K Club with one of his best mates by his side - Lee Westwood.

Another bonus with Woosnam's wildcard picks being a 'ready made' pairing, it leaves Paul McGinlay and Padraig Harrington free to make another 'self assembled' strong pairing. I can't help but think what would have happened had Bjorn been picked? What pairings would that decision have made/affected?

  • 25.
  • At 03:55 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Bent Almskou wrote:

The European Tour being a British "Invention" and still totally dominated by british...No NOT players but officials and journalists, who would expect a very weak captain to pick a non-british player?
This captain never asked the most succesfull and most recent former captain Bernard Langer for advice, but talked to 2 british former captains.
And OOOPPPPSSS suddenly the Ryder Cup goes to Ireland then Wales Then Scotland. So at the earliest 2018 the Ryder Cup will be played in mailland Europe. Great move by the "European(read British) tour management".
The only thing that annoyes me is the fact that Thomas Bjorn actually thought he had a chance getting a wild card.

  • 26.
  • At 05:23 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Simon Calrow wrote:

It's great that Woosie has picked a balanced team. There are two Swedes, two Spainards and a good sprinkling of British and Irish players. We have only one major winner and no surprise packages. I just hope Woosie plays all his players on the first day. They all deserve a place on the team and if possible play at least three matches each. Lets not get involved in the Mark James syndrome.

Good feature on Pete Baker on the web-site. It sounds a bit easier being vice-captain of the Ryder Cup team rather than the Wolves.

  • 27.
  • At 05:39 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • PS wrote:

About the picks - they are fine by me although I must admit that Bjorn possibly deserved the second pick ahead of Westwood.

But what worries me is the mere fact that a situation like the Bjorn-situation can occur just 3 weeks before the cup. This shows a lot about Woosie´s lack of leadership. He should have talked it out with the players at forehand. All this nonsens about deciding the last pick just before the press conference make no sense. If the result in Munich was so important Bjorn would have been picked.

Anyhow Westwood will do great - just wait and see.

  • 28.
  • At 06:12 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Morten Andersen wrote:

As a Dane I am not impressed at the level of standard of Bjorns remarks. It lacked dignity.

But Thomas does have a point. If you do not communicate with your players - where are your skills as a leader? Come on. For Woosie to come out and say the decision was made at the last moment - at the most positive it is pathetic - especially as the reasons for picking Westwood are historic - nearly ancient - results. I want in-form players on my team, Woosie have said. The truth is that half is team does not have any form at all.

Westwood have not had great results since 03` on tour and whats worse - he have been signalling very clearly that he did not care if he did not
make the team.

It is a leadership disaster that Woosnam does not - in any way - signal to his players that he is on top of this.

  • 29.
  • At 07:38 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • JNP wrote:

I think the Ryder Cup is now too important an event to have Honourary captains. Like every other walk of life some golfers have leadership skills and some don't. I think the real shame of it is that the captains are picked largely as a recognition of their contribution to the game of golf and then, too often, end up being denigrated by the fans, their peers and the press -some honour! I think it is time that the captaincy is awared, perhaps full time, to a someone with the correct real sporting management skills - Clive?

  • 30.
  • At 10:30 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • Steven wrote:

Woosie stated a long time ago that to be eligible for a pick you had to play a significant amount of your golf on the European tour, which Petterson doesn't do.

Petterson had the two wins on the USPGA but did he do a lot else? If he'd had a really good year then he would have been in the top 5 on the world points list - that's the whole reason for having the two lists so that the really good players that aren't based in Europe (E.G Luke DOnald) can make it into the team without the need for a pick.

I think this was introduced a few years back when Faldo needed a pick because he played most of his golf on the USPGA for a few years near the end of hisa career.

  • 31.
  • At 12:30 PM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Colm G. Connolly wrote:

Woosie's leadership skills do bother me and his poor performance in Germany has only added to my fear. The players are good enough - but can he drive them on to success. I think at this stage Lehman is winning the battle - let's hope Woosie wins the war!

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