There are many reasons that I disagree with the decision to overlook Darren Clarke in favour of Ian Poulter for the Ryder Cup. Let me get it off my chest now, so that I have it on the record, and so I get some therapy.
Ian Poulter has spent the last week doing all his talking in the media. Bad mouthing Monty, boasting of his superior world ranking,then blaming the media for his recent poor form. He pointed out how he had accumulated more world ranking points than any of the other wild card favourites with 108.71, sixty of those points by virtue of his Open second place. He ignored the point that Darren Clarke, having had last year wiped out as he dealt with his wife's death, hasn't had the opportunity to play in three of the majors and most of the World Golf Championships, yet has amassed 100.53 ranking points, just eight less than him. Poulter has played in all the big events, where there's shedloads of points up for grabs, yet has only
done slightly better in the qualifying race than Clarke has. Doesn't that say something?
Then you look at the two player's recent form and remember how Faldo said that it would be form, not reputation which decided who he'd pick for Valhalla. Well, Poulter has missed the cut in the last two weeks. This weekend he blamed all the media's speculation for his poor performance, not comforable under pressure of your own creation Ian? Clarke had a commanding win in the KLM Open and a decent performance this weekend and is universally thought to be back to his best.
Then you could look at their respective Ryder Cup records. Ian has one cap to his name, in which he played a four-ball on the second day, with Clarke, they lost. He did win his singles on the final day against Chris Riley but still, he can hardly be considered a titan of the Cup. Darren Clarke has competed on five Ryder Cup sides, four of which have won. He won 3 points out of a possible 3 last time, only six weeks after his wife Heather passed away, an amazing performance. He has a formidable partnership with Lee Westwood, of the 8 matches they have played together, they have won six. He has won 58% of the points he has played for, 11 1/2 out of 20. In the last two matches he has won 5 and a half out of 8. A fairly safe bet if he's in form then, and he is...
There's been universal puzzlement at the decision to go for Poulter instead of Clarke, Bernard Gallacher has come out and criticised it, players like Harrington, Westwood and McDowell have come out and said they wanted Clarke with them, hell, even Paul Azinger was convinced that Clarke was a "lock" for the wild card and it was a question of Casey or Poulter for the other. In a poll of 32 players at Gleneagles, 29 said Clarke should get the spot, only one backed Poulter.
But Faldo was never going to do the expected was he, it's not his style. I hope that Poulter goes on to prove it a shrewd decision but somehow I can't see it happening. I don't reckon he will prove to be an unsettling influence after his comments, I think they'll all be too concerned with the job at hand to get into any petty squabbles and the only one he may have offended is Monty who won't be there. But I don't think he'll have an unsettling influence on the American's which is waht you want really isn't it. Who do you think the americans would fear more, a man who has done it all before at the Ryder Cup, who was one half of one of the best pairings the Ryder Cup has seen, who had a 100% record last year. Or the bloke who has been prancing around the PGA Tour all season making little real impression, in silly clothes he "designs" himself, with a daft looking chin beard, giving ill-advised interviews which over-egg his talent and standing in the game. A bloke who they play regularly on their tour, usually do better than and has never won an event on it.
I dunno, I'm incredibly biased, I love Clarke, but I have a soft spot for Poulter too and I honestly reckon this was the wrong decision from whatever angle you look at it. Prove me wrong Ian, prove me wrong. And for christ's sake, don't start hitting shanks again, please..