It got a little bit lost in the chatter surrounding Tiger Woods’ appearance at the Abu Dhabi Championship this week, but José María Olazábal, the all-powerful European Ryder Cup captain, has confirmed a potentially significant alteration to the process [summary of the process here, courtesy of the Guardian's Lawrence Donegan] by which he’ll select the dozen players worthy of giving the U-S-A (U-S-A) a jolly good shoe-ing at Medinah later this year.
In the interest of avoiding a high-profile selection controversy, like that which followed Colin Montgomerie’s decision to opt for Padraig Harrington over of Paul Casey, Olazábal divested himself of a third wild card pick upon appointment last year.
He considered the measure a means of emphasising automatic qualification:
“The more picks you get the less value you give to the players who finish in the top 10.”
In addition, the Spaniard has pledged to delay the announcement of his picks by a day in order to allow players competing in America to complete their rounds free of interference.
It’s a measure thought to have been put in place at the urging of Casey, a member of the European Tour players’ committee, who learned of his failure to qualify for the 2010 Ryder Cup while competing with Harrington on the PGA Tour.
“Looking at what happened the last time round it was not a comfortable situation for anyone… It would be unfair for anyone who is playing in the States and who might be on the verge of winning to announce the two captain’s picks before the guys even tee off.”
This fine-tuning of the selection process may well facilitate a smoother transition to the event itself, but doesn’t it risk weakening the side slightly?