Captains are invariably respected in golfing circles, whether they are the figurehead leaders of clubs, countries or continents. So it came as a great surprise today to see one former member of an elite band criticise another, as Bernard Gallacher did regarding Nick Faldo over his wild-card entries into Europe's Ryder Cup team.
Faldo's decision to nominate the English pair of Paul Casey and Ian Poulter as his s picks to complete the European team of 12 for this month's eagerly-awaited match against the United States at Valhalla, Kentucky, brought a negative response from Gallacher - who was in charge of three European teams between 1991 and 1995. The long-hitting Casey was considered an obvious choice when debates intensified over who would appeal most to Faldo in a five or six-man hunt for wild- cards so there will be few complaints after his conclusion.
Poulter's call was not as widely expected and has been called into question by Gallacher, who would have opted for the greater experience of Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke. "I think the morale in the team might be a bit lower for picking Poulter ahead of Clarke," he said. "I felt there was a dead certainty for it to be Clarke and Casey. "There will be a few players today thinking, 'Nick, I think you've made a mistake'."
Gallacher bases his argument on Clarke winning the penultimate qualifying event in the Netherlands and competing in last weekend's final qualifier at Gleneagles at a time when Poulter was competing for greater financial rewards in the US. Poulter was in a position to earn automatic entry into the team by playing in Scotland. Had he done so, he would have eased Faldo's selection dilemma to the probable advantage of Clarke or Colin Montgomerie, a Ryder Cup hero of the past but out of form at present.
"I don't think Poulter will let the team down but he didn't turn up to the last event and Darren's the form guy. Ian has missed the last two cuts," said Gallacher. "I don't want to pull the team down. Nick's his own man. "I just had a sneaking feeling at the back of my mind that Nick Faldo would do something different. He [Faldo] is slightly controversial and he's lived up to it." Sergio Garcia, who qualified for his fifth Ryder Cup in second place behind the Padraig Harrington, winner of two major championships this summer, shared Gallacher's view.
"I thought Paul Casey was pretty much a nailed on for a wild-card and because of the way Darren has been playing lately, I thought maybe he would get the other one," he said. Garcia has witnessed at close hand Clarke's partnership with England's Lee Westwood in the foursomes and fourballs - a pairing that has brought success on three different occasions against Tiger Woods, the world No 1, and his respective partners.
Faldo, typically, stuck to his guns backed up by the fact that Poulter was the nearest challenger to Harrington in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in July. "I feel very good about those two picks," said the man who in his own playing career won six major titles and holds the European record of 25 for points earned in Ryder Cup matches. "I know how to talk to golfers, and as a golfer I've been there, done that as they say, but to have to make a decision that obviously guys will be emotional about either way is tough.
"I am now very excited, I have got a team and I can now talk to my team. I will start giving them a few thoughts and ask them a few questions on what they want to do and start getting some communication lines open." Poulter, who missed the halfway cut in the Deutche Bank Open which concluded in Boston last night, admitted that he had made an error of judgment going to the US and reacted with typical flamboyance to his reprieve.
"I'm absolutely overwhelmed," he said. "It's awesome. I'll bring excitement, I'll bring flair and I'll bring the passion." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org