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The Tour Report

August 27 2012

9:15 AM

Analyzing Olazabal’s captain’s picks

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Ian Poulter will be playing in his fourth Ryder Cup, and Nicolas Colsaerts his first.

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

Jose Maria Olazabal filled out his European Ryder Cup team on Monday, naming Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts as his two captain’s picks . Neither selection came as a surprise.

Poulter and Colsaerts were Nos. 11 and 12 on the World Points list, and both fill particular boxes for the European team.

Poulter is a veteran of three Ryder Cup teams (not to mention eight other international team competitions) with an impressive 8-3 record, which includes a 3-1 mark in the last Ryder Cup.

Colsaerts, who will be making his Ryder Cup debut, has eight top 10s on the European Tour this season, including a win at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, where he beat Graeme McDowell in the final match. Colsaerts is also aided by the fact that the 11 other members of the team have all played in at least one Ryder Cup.

Others were considered, too -- Rafael Cabrera-Bello, David Lynn and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano were Nos. 13, 14 and 15 on the points list, while Padraig Harrington, 19th, has the experience of six Ryder Cups. In the end, though, Poulter’s impressive match play credentials, and Colsaerts’ strong season and his ability to hit it long, won out.

Below is a closer look at both of Olzabal’s choices. Davis Love III will make his four captain’s picks on Sept. 4 in New York.

Ian Poulter

2012 season: In 13 starts this season on the PGA TOUR, Poulter has four top 10s, including a pair of third-place finishes at Bay Hill and the PGA Championship. Poulter’s putting has let him down at times -- he ranks 125th in strokes gained-putting -- but he ranks second in scrambling.

Strengths: Lives for match play, as evidenced by two match play titles at the 2010 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and the the 2011 Volvo World Match Play Championship. … His passion for the event was summed up best by what he said in 2010: “There's a burning passion inside to go out there and to beat the USA team. It's as simple as that.” … Makes for a good partner given his accuracy off the tee and ball-striking ability.

Questions: Putting has been his Achilles heel this season with Poulter giving up .110 strokes to the field this season in strokes gained-putting. … Not the longest player, averaging 285 yards off the tee. … Wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Nicolas Colsaerts

2012 season: The first player from Belgium to make the team, Colsaerts’ season got off to a hot start with seven top 10s in his first 11 starts this year. One of those was the victory over McDowell in the Volvo World Match Play Championship, where Colsaerts beat him 1 up and led on four separate occasions in the match.

Strengths: The team’s longest player, Colsaerts averages 316 yards off the tee, which ranks first on the European Tour. … He’s also one of Europe’s best ball-strikers, averaging 13 1/2 greens in regulation per round, which is good for 11th on the European Tour. … Colsaerts played well when he knew Olazabal was watching, finishing seventh at the Wyndham Championship and 19th at the Johnnie Walker Championship.

Questions: Colsaerts is a good but not great putter, averaging just over 30 putts per round this season. … Bunker play is probably the weakest part of Colsaerts’ game as he gets up and down just 47 percent of the time, which ranks 155th in Europe. … His Ryder Cup debut is coming on the opponents’ soil.