x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Belgian hopes his passion play is noticed by Olazabal

With Medinah, the site of this year's Ryder Cup competition in Illinois, favouring big hitters, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts is hoping captain Jose Maria Olazabal has noticed his passion.

With Medinah, the site of this year's Ryder Cup competition, favouring big hitters, Nicolas Colsaerts is hoping captain Jose Maria Olazabal has taken notice of his play of late.
With Medinah, the site of this year's Ryder Cup competition, favouring big hitters, Nicolas Colsaerts is hoping captain Jose Maria Olazabal has taken notice of his play of late.

If Ryder Cup places were granted for determination to be included, or commitment to the cause, then Nicolas Colsaerts would find himself an automatic choice.

As it stands, the Belgian with the booming drive and the rock-solid iron play - not bad attributes for the biennial battle with the United States - faces an anxious wait today as he discovers if Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe's captain, awards him one of two wild cards.

Colsaerts's inability to seal a top-two finish at Sunday's Johnnie Walker Championship is reason for the agitation. The 29 year old's final-round 72 was not enough to muscle Martin Kaymer from the top 10 in the automatic qualification table - Colsaerts came home tied 19th at Gleneagles - yet the fact he was campaigning hard last week illustrated a commendable desire to join Olazabal's team for Medinah, Illinois, next month.

No doubt that will be fresh in the mind of the Spanish captain when he announces his decision Monday afternoon, at 3pm UAE time.

Kaymer, much to the surprise of Colsaerts and many of the game's keenest observers, chose to stay away from central Scotland as the German scratches around for the form that only last year catapulted him to No 1 in the world rankings.

Colsaerts recognised the Ryder Cup's capacity for the contentious, though, and resolved to make the team on merit.

"When you play rounds like these and you commit to tournaments and get yourself in a position like this and make the most of it, it just shows how much you want it," said the world No 33 followinghis tie for seventh at the Wyndham Championship, North Carolina two Sundays ago.

He swiftly made a dash across the Atlantic for one last attempt at qualification.

"Hopefully I have made an impression on the captain," Colsaerts said. "You have got to show you can make it. You have got to make sure it counts for everything."

Such intent was underlined after a third-round 71 at Gleneagles left Colsaerts six off the lead and all but reliant on Olazabal's indulgence.

"I still showed passion. I still showed that I play with my guts and, you know, I'm just fighting like a dog," he said. "I have no idea what I need to do tomorrow. My strategy is to shoot the best round of my career, plain and simple."

Passion can often be provided too much significance, but in the crucible of the Ryder Cup it sprouts an extra dimension.

Colsaerts, first this season on the European Tour in driving distance and 11th for greens in regulation, seems to have the requisite tools to cause a storm in the Windy City.

Understandably, there has been a groundswell of support.

A Facebook page in Belgium is dedicated to promoting his inclusion, while he was paired with Thomas Bjorn, one of Olazabal's vice-captains, for the first two rounds at the Johnnie Walker.

Coincidence, it was not.

On Friday, Olazabal even referred to Medinah as "a long-hitters' course".

Colsaerts's competition for a captain's pick strengthens his case.

Ian Poulter, knocked from an automatic spot by Sergio Garcia's win at Wyndham, appears a certainty for selection given his sparkling Ryder Cup record, leaving one place on the plane to Chicago.

Padraig Harrington's performance in the majors this season warrants consideration, but on Thursday, Olazabal declared the Irishman needed "at least a win" in The Barclays to stand a chance. Harrington was tied-43rd going into last night's final round.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello, the Spaniard, will hope to capitalise on Olazabal's intense patriotism, although omitting Colsaerts in favour of the Dubai Desert Classic champion would be viewed as controversial at best.

Colsaerts has a victory himself this season, tellingly in the Volvo World Match Play Championship. Justin Rose said after his last-16 defeat to the eventual winner that consistently hitting his second shot from 50 yards behind Colsaerts's served as a considerable distraction to playing well.

It would represent a weighty weapon against Davis Love III's home side, not least in the fourballs.

The Ryder Cup, and the European team's recent success in it, is as much about partnerships as individuals; Colsaerts would dovetail beautifully with short game supremo Luke Donald.

The former's determination and commitment to make the team suggests he should at least be given the opportunity.

 

WILD CARD SUSPECTS

Nicolas Colsaerts

No 1 in driving distance makes for a formidable fourball partner. Ryder rookie, but proved match-play credentials at Finca Cortesin in May.

Ian Poulter

Superb putter whose passion for the cup is almost unrivalled. Record reads five points from seven matches – a must.

Padraig Harrington

The three-time major winner performed well this season on the grand stage. Only 10.5 points from 25 matches cannot be overlooked, though.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello

The Spaniard is enjoying his best season with one win and a trio of top threes, although considered the long shot of the four options.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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