Faldo sticks to his guns

By Brian Keogh

Nick Faldo has defended his decision to "snub" Ireland's Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell for Seve Trophy wildcards.

Europe's Ryder Cup skipper only has eyes for the big picture as he captains a team for the first time.

Padraig Harrington's withdrawal through injury and Faldo's decision to pick Scot Marc Warren and England's Oliver Wilson has seriously hit ticket sales for the Seve Trophy.

But Faldo, 50, has no qualms about leaving the golf-mad Irish public with no-one to cheer for on home soil.

Stressing his role as Ryder Cup skipper, Faldo said: "I've picked numbers one and two for the wildcards and the Irish boys are down the list little bit.

"My role this week was to put young guns in and we’ve got two guys who are one and two in the official list who are chomping to play, I think as I’ve just said, that it's important to them."

Just three of the European side that spanked the US by a record-equalling margin at The K Club will tee it up tomorrow - Colin Mongtomerie, Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson.

Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth all said no to the event while Harrington was unavailable through injury and 2004 star Ian Poulter is getting married.

As he prepared to pick out the team shirts and gifts for next year's Ryder Cup in Kentucky, Faldo insisted that seeing young guns Warren and Wilson in action was more important than drawing Irish crowds to the midlands.

Faldo said: "I thought my original brief was to be the captain of the team, which potentially could be a big learning curve for the Ryder Cup.

"Obviously, Paul McGinley is my vice-captain and he's comfortable with my two picks. I spoke to him and he thought they were a good choice.

"I’m pleased about my team in the fact that I’ve got a couple of backbone guys at the top and the rest of the team are up-and-coming, new blood.

"I assume they see this as a great stepping-stone forward to the Ryder Cup. So rather than having a team that I know what the guys can do, I’ve guys who I am sure want to go out and impress."

Surprised by Harrington's pullout last week, Faldo reckons it will serve as a warning sign to the Dubliner to pace himself ahead of next year's Ryder Cup.

Faldo said: "Nobody expected it because he was fully committed to playing here and obviously, his withdrawal has caused the sponsors a lot of heartache.

"Being Open champion is a big learning curve for him as well. He’ll obviously know - and very importantly in the run-up to the Ryder Cup - he’ll understand how much golf and how many corporate commitments he’s got to fit in now being an Open champion so he’s fit and strong for the Ryder Cup next year.

"He has to look at that as part of his new experience as an Open champion and the schedule changes he’s going to have to make, so it’s very important he addresses this because next year he’ll be equally popular.

"I know what it is like. There’s a lot going on and you need to learn to pace yourself."

The PGA Tour's FedEx Cup could have a major effect on next year's Ryder Cup as players from both sides face the possibility of playing the four play-off events and then the Ryder Cup in successive weeks.

Faldo said: "This year there were three Europeans in the play-offs (Harrington, Garcia and Rose) so that’s what I paid attention to this time.

"It could be an issue but I can’t do anything about that. If the players are playing that well, if we have that many playing right the way through to the final event of the FedEx Cup, obviously I know they are playing well. Let’s look at the positive side.

"If they have to be rested in some way, well I will work on that as well. Paul Azinger will have the same problem. We’ll just have to see how it pans out."

Asked if he would go for a similar wildcard policy to this week's Seve Trophy by opting for the next two players in the list, Faldo was not so sure.

He said: "If it’s as easy as that, great. It would be straightforward but who knows. Who knows what I’ll have in the team.

"If I’ve got massive backbone of past players maybe it would be good to give young guns an opportunity, guys who’d have shot through in the last couple of months.

"On the other hand, if I’m full of rookies, I might think maybe I do need a couple of old boys to take them under their wing.

"I’m looking forward to this because it’s a great opportunity for me to get to know the players.
"No so much impress me as impress themselves and show what they can do in a team match play environment. So I’m very happy with that."

Harrington's Open win fascinated Faldo, who was glued to the coverage of the final nine holes.

He said: "It was fantastic. There were only two guys going forward and that was Padraig and Ernie Els at that time.

"Everyone else was kind of back-pedalling. As the drama that unfolded, you couldn’t script what happened over the last three holes in a million years. It was riveting.

"I think Padraig won that because he regrouped better than Sergio after 18. You can imagine the hurt of facing a putt to win the British Open and he probably hit a good putt and there was a kind of little bit of opposite break in there.

"So in his own mind he’s thinking ‘I’ve hit it, I’ve holed it’ and then it doesn’t go in.

"It affected him and Padraig was able to regroup and that first hole was very important. He was able to come out and deliver when it was demanded."

Unfortunately for the Seve Trophy, Harrington can't deliver this week.