Celebration for Nicolas Colsaerts as Jose Maria Olazabal makes offer he can’t refuse
NICOLAS Colsaerts thought he’d walked in on a scene from The Godfather when he was summoned to learn his Ryder Cup wild-card fate on Sunday night. How appropriate that he left that room in the plush Gleneagles Hotel with a ticket to Chicago, the one-time mobster capital of the United States.
Two years after Colin Montgomerie was faced with the mother of all headaches over his Ryder Cup picks, Jose Maria Olazabal, his successor as European captain, had a pretty straightforward task as he added his two wild cards to the ten automatic selections for the match at Medinah on 28-30 September.
In the grand setting of the Gleneagles Hotel ballroom, the Spaniard announced he’d selected Belgian Colsaerts and England’s Ian Poulter, the next two players on the points list at the end of a year-long battle for spots, to complete the team that will defend the coveted gold trophy after the European win in Wales two years ago.
While the fall-out from Montgomerie’s picks – the Scot had around eight players vying for three spots – rumbled on well after the match itself, few can surely disagree that Colsarts and Poulter are not heading for Illinois in just over a month’s time on merit. Taking the latter first, Poulter has been a revelation in the last two matches against the Americans, picking up four points from five as part of Nick Faldo’s losing team at Valhalla in 2008 then, at Celtic Manor, recording three points from four for winning captain Montgomerie.
For one reason or another, in some cases many reasons, Poulter will never be everyone’s cup of tea. But, just as it did for Montgomerie over the years – Sergio Garcia, too – the Ryder Cup brings out the best in him as a competitor, hence the reason he has been able to sleep fairly comfortably in the countdown to the wild-card announcement. In contrast, Colsaerts must have struggled to sleep a wink in recent weeks and days as he’s fretted over his bid to become the first Belgian golfer to appear in the event. He’d given it his all, pushing right to the wire in the final qualifying event, the Johnnie Walker Championship.
Yet, after failing to secure the top-two finish he needed over the PGA Centenary Course on Sunday, he feared a 14-hour nail-biting session in Perthshire, having decided to remain at the friend’s home he’d been staying during the event, before watching the announcement live on TV yesterday.
In truth, that decision pointed to him being told it was going to be worth him hanging around and so it proved, the good news having been broken to Colsaerts late on Sunday night after he’d been asked by Olazabal if he could make the ten-minute journey from where he was staying to the five-star hotel. “When I walked in it was like a scene from The Godfather, all these people sitting around and watching the [Barclays Championship] golf,” revealed the 29-year-old, the sole rookie in the European team, after joining Olazabal in person at the announcement, which also involved a live link with Poulter in America. “It was pretty nerve-wracking for the first five minutes I was in there, but Olly did a great job of mellowing the situation and saying in his way I was going to be part of it.”
Not surprisingly, he decided a celebration was in order. “I didn’t go fly-fishing this morning as I’d originally planned as I was involved in some local sport last night,” added the Brussels man with a smile. “I did a bit of drinking with some dear friends staying at the house with me and I got to bed about 3.30am.”
That was once a regular occurrence but Colsaerts, a two-time Junior Ryder Cup player, is a changed man since a trip to Australia turned his career around, helping him to climb from 1,035th in the world to his current 35th position. “I knew I was going to be a bit of a clown at one stage of my life, but I’ve always said I had my mid-life crisis at 25,” he admitted. “It’s a pretty good thing – I got it out of the way. I was told a million times [to grow up and shake off his wild side], but it has to come from you.”
On deciding to spend some time at a sports academy in Brisbane, he added: “It was a great hideaway place and I found myself.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North