By Brian Keogh
Former Ryder Cup skipper Sam Torrance has branded Nick Faldo's vice-captaincy choices "an insult" and "a slap" to Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal.
The straight talking Scot believes that 2008 captain Faldo has made a major mistake by nominating two of the leading contenders for the side as potential back-room boys.
Torrance rapped: "It’s just a wee bit of a slap, you know. Obviously he thinks he’s got the right men for the job but to me they’re both current Ryder Cup players.
"They were in the last team. I don’t know. It’s an insult really."
Capped eight times as a player before leading the side that won the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in 2002, Torrance's opinion carries major weight.
And while he still believes that McGinley and Olazabal are great choices, he has no doubt that Faldo has jumped the gun by making the announcement nearly 16 months ahead of the matches at Valhalla.
Torrance added: “It is not really my call but if I was going to pick two people of that ilk I would not have announced it now.
“I would have waited until three months before and made sure that they weren't going to make the team and then ask them.
“I mean to be honest, certainly Olazabal and probably McGinley, if they didn't make the team would have been in my considerations for a wild card. But to ask them to be vice captains this early is a strange decision.
"It’s a bit early to announce it. I mean, wait to announce it. The assistant captains mean nothing, with no disrespect to them, until the week. They don’t do anything before it, so he could have waited until maybe June or July of next year, when the team’s almost established."
McGinley was dragged behind a bush by Faldo at Pebble Beach in February and asked to be an assistant for the matches in Kentucky in September next year.
And Faldo’s decision to make that choice public during last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has taken many by surprise - including Scottish legend Torrance.
After watching McGinley hole the winning putt for him at The Belfry nearly five years ago, Torrance knows exactly what the Dubliner can deliver as a player.
And with nearly three months to go before the European Ryder Cup qualifying process even begins, the 53-year-old veteran is scratching is head as to exactly what Faldo is thinking.
Believing that Faldo is making life hard for himself, Torrance added: “I would have left it for a while, especially picking someone like that. It can be quite hurtful to a player, who might think: 'God, he doesn't want me in the team, he wants me in the backroom or wherever.'
"Now it is also a great honour to be asked of course, but I would have gone a different way about it.
"Ollie is certainly a future captain in the making and Paul could be a captain in the future too. The chips are certainly stacked the right way for Paul now if he is going to be vice captain. But I would have gone a different way about things.”
Faldo played down the possible wild card conflict at the time he made his announcement.
But there is no doubt that he will be left with a massive headache if one of his possible vice captains finishes 11th in the qualifying race and the other 13th or 14th.
Only 10 players make it automatically and Faldo joked: “If they are 11 and 12, it's a simple choice, and at least I get them to back me up as well. I won't get anybody fighting.
“I think it would be more fun if one is 11 and one is 13 and 14, and then they have got to argue over who is going to make it or not. That will be very interesting. One in one out.”
Form will play a vital role in deciding who gets the wild cards and Faldo confessed that he would most likely be looking for a player who is coming good at the end of the qualifying campaign.
He said: “If somebody stormed through the last four months and he's obviously playing extremely well and you can see the look in their face and their eyes that that's their goal is their intention to be there, maybe rather than the guy who has just gone steady, he's still there.
“I have no idea how far down I could go. Really, you can't really say but if somebody makes a very late move, that is the current golfer, he's the guy on form and depending on his personality, that will be a great call to have to make.
“I think that's the most important thing that you can have time to weigh things up and I'll go with my gut feelings at the end of the day. And if I believe it, well, that's the best I can do.”
Pointing to Olazabal and McGinley, Faldo added: “I have to make the final decision, if these gentlemen are around or obviously whatever position they are in, they will be in part that have decision as well.”
McGinley’s popularity with the players is not something that can be underestimated and Torrance has no doubt that the fighting Dubliner would be an asset in the team room if he failed to make it as a player.
He said: “Paul is very much a likeable guy, very much so. He will be very knowledgeable in the team room and has played on the team three times.
“He knows what it going on and because he is popular and well liked amongst the players he will talk well when the players are needing help.”
Ironically, Faldo was one of Torrance's biggest critics when the Scot opted to give Jesper Parnevik a wildcard ahead of Olazabal in 2001.
At the time, Faldo said: "Going on his record, Ollie would have been one of my picks. He's so enthusiastic and knows how to win a point."