PERTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND I At the end of a week of seemingly never-ending conjecture, Colin Montgomerie handed his three Ryder Cup wildcards to Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari. The captain named them in that order and, when Molinari was mentioned, the over-riding feeling was one of massive relief.
After the 29-year-old Italian had finished with three birdies to win the Johnnie Walker by a shot from Brett Rumford, it would have been an outrage had he been left out. In the event, Monty appeared to be thinking much the same, and that though he had five days earlier paved the way for giving his picks to those playing in the FedEx Playoffs – Harrington, Donald, Paul Casey and Justin Rose. Over the week, the Scot was more and more taken with what he was seeing from Molinari.
“What can I say of Edoardo’s performance here today?” he asked at the Ryder Cup press conference. “In my 24 years on the European Tour, I don’t think I’ve seen a finish of that quality under such pressure by anyone, ever. All credit to him for having come here needing to win and doing just that and joining his brother, Francesco, as the first brother partnership that’s ever played in either team in the Ryder Cup.”
For the record, he was badly briefed on that topic. The Whitcombe brothers, Charles, Earnest and Reg, played in 1935, while the Hunts, Bernard and Geoff, were in the side of 1965.
Edoardo’s ecstasy mirrored the fist-pumping which had gone on when he holed a swirling 30-footer for the second of his three closing birdies. In his excitement, he promised Monty in their post-round meeting that he and the 28-year-old Francesco, playing together, would not lose a point. “I know it is a big statement,” he said afterwards, “but this has been a big week for me and it meant so much. I really think that Francesco and I play so well together.” For the record, they won last year’s World Cup.
Asked if he felt he would have been chosen if he had not won the Johnnie Walker, Molinari, whose first year this is on the main Tour, looked a tad doubtful. Though Montgomerie indicated that he had come close to choosing him after three rounds, the Italian was under the impression that he had said he would have to win.
Of his other choices, Montgomerie said he had selected Harrington because he was a man of three majors “and we feel that no one wants to play him in a match-play context.” And Donald because of a record in which he had bagged five-and-a-half points from the seven games he played across his two Ryder Cup outings.
The captain mentioned that he had rung at least 12 players who were not going to get picks, including Rose and Casey. He spoke to Rose at a time when he was still on the practice ground at The Barclays. Though Rose had said on Saturday that he felt his third-round 65 would have grabbed Montgomerie’s attention at precisely the right time, he apparently took the news well.
Since Casey was out on the course, Montgomerie left a message which he was planning to follow up with a call on Sunday night.
Away from the wildcards, there was another Montgomerie appointment. The captain had spoken to Sergio Garcia at the Open and said how sorry he was about his loss of form and Garcia had asked if he could have a role at Celtic Manor. As a result, he will be the fourth vice-captain alongside Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn.
There was nothing more magnificent in the hours leading up to the announcement than the way in which Miguel Angel Jimenez clung fast to his spot on the team. The Spaniard should have been at his nephew’s wedding last week but, when he realised that his ninth and last automatic place might be in danger, he rang his nephew who told him, “You have to go to Gleneagles.”
Simon Dyson was the player Jimenez had to worry about. If Dyson, who was lying in a share of third place after three rounds, went on to win, he had to finish inside the top nine.
He was a shot behind the Englishman going into the final round but, where Dyson dropped shots on the outward half, Jimenez picked up a couple. When he birdied the 16th to dip to eight under, he felt he was still in with a chance of winning the tournament. But a mini-nightmare awaited at the short 17th.
Firstly, Jimenez took the wrong club off the tee, a 7-iron rather than an 8-iron. His ball landed in the worst of the greenside rough and he miscued with his little chip. He then putted up close and, in leaning forward to tap his ball into the hole without treading on his playing companion’s line, he missed. To his endless credit, he then signed off with a birdie to finish in a share of third place.
The same will almost certainly apply to Rhys Davies who has accepted an invitation to drive Monty’s buggy at Celtic Manor. Knowing the speed at which an impatient Monty likes to get from A to B, the Welsh player will not want that kind of a role more than once.