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Mixed reactions to Nick Faldo picks

European captain Nick Faldo has triggered widespread surprise on both sides of the Atlantic over two omissions from his Ryder Cup team.

Faldo selected British duo Ian Poulter and Paul Casey on Sunday as his wildcards for this month’s match against the United States ahead of Darren Clarke and Carl Pettersson.

Cup veteran Clarke, a double champion on the European Tour this season, had been viewed by many as a near-certainty while Swede Carl Pettersson advanced his own claims by winning a third PGA Tour title two weeks ago.

After announcing his two captain’s picks at Gleneagles, Faldo conceded Clarke had come agonizingly close to a sixth Ryder Cup appearance but was vague about Pettersson.

“Darren made a massive, massive charge, a big effort the last few weeks,” Faldo said of the Briton who has won the BMW Asian Open and the Dutch Open in the last four months.

“At the end of the day, it’s a tough call. It’s a decision I have to make. Some will agree and some will disagree. I’m the guy that has to live with it and I can live with my decision.”

Asked whether he had considered Pettersson, Faldo replied: “As you can imagine, (pleasing) everybody is difficult, it really is. But I have to pick two picks; that’s the small print.”

The U.S.-based Pettersson won the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago, his third PGA Tour triumph in the last four years.

He has been a consistent performer this season with five top-10s in 23 starts but believes living in North Carolina has possibly kept him under the Ryder Cup radar.

“I love playing over here, this is the number one tour in the world,” Pettersson told reporters after ending Sunday’s third round at the Deutsche Bank Championship tied for 13th.

“I think that sometimes gets overlooked. The competition over here is a lot harder than in Europe. I didn’t think I had a chance until Casey and Poulter missed the cut this week.

“They both played Ryder Cups before but I certainly thought I had a better chance with me playing decent.”

On Monday the golf correspondent for The Times of London wrote: “It is a sign of the strength of Europe’s professional golfers that a Swede, who has won three tournaments in the U.S. in the past four years, can be excluded.

“Yet there is an unpleasant whiff of xenophobia about it. If Pettersson were British, he would be a nailed-down certainty to be included.”

Sergio Garcia, who is also playing at the Deutsche Bank Championship, was particularly surprised by Clarke’s omission.

“I thought Paul was pretty much a lock and because of the way Darren has been playing lately, I thought maybe he would get the other one,” said the Spaniard, who will make his fifth Ryder Cup appearance this month.

“Everybody played hard to try to get into that team and Casey and Poulter are going to be good assets. They are both great players. But some of us were thinking Clarke would get the pick or maybe a guy like Carl Pettersson.”

When all is said and done, one of the toughest tasks facing any Ryder Cup captain is making his wildcard picks.

“The first bad part about being a captain is you have to make that call to one or two people and say I’m sorry,” said Jim Furyk, who was also surprised by Clarke’s omission.

“The second bad part is you (the media) all just rip him if we don’t win. And it’s not their fault.

“I’ve seen the reactions of some of our captains when the media coverage wasn’t favorable to what they did,” added Furyk, who has played on the last five U.S. teams.

“They poured two years into it, gave up a lot of their time and effort. Then, when it turned around, they kind of got painted as a failure at times. It’s got to hurt.”

Europe will be bidding for a sixth victory in seven editions when the Ryder Cup is held at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky from Sept 19-21.

September 2, 2008

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