Padraig Harrington simply didn’t play well enough over the past 12 months to warrant a wildcard from European Ryder Cup skipper José María Olazabal.
As widely predicted, the Spaniard added England’s Ian Poulter and Belgian rookie Nicolas Colsaerts as his captain’s picks for next month’s matches at Medinah in Chicago.
“It’s never an easy decision,” Olazabal said. “Obviously you have a few more players in that mix every time. But it’s true that I talked to the vice captains quite a bit regarding the picks.
“We studied the different possibilities. We had a few discussions regarding that, and actually, the last time we talked was on Friday this week.”
Asked how Harrington had received the news, Olazabál said: “Well, I talked to him last night, and I was very straight to the point. I know he tried hard.
“He played well at the Masters; he finished eighth. He had a good U.S. Open and then the following week he had a great Irish Open. But you know, he was 19th on the list. He was just a little bit down the list.
“I know he’s a great player. I would have loved to have him on the team the same way I would have loved to have Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson. Those are great players. But you need to be playing good, simple as that. I think he took it well, and that was it.”
The captain revealed that it was difficult to inform players who were considered for a pick that they would not be on the plane to Chicago.
And it was interesting to hear that he called a player who was even further down the list than Harrington - big-hitting fellow Spaniard Álvaro Quiros.
“Well, obviously it’s not an easy moment,” Olazábal said. “They are all disappointed. I know that they really wanted to be on the team. And I went down, I talked to the next four, five guys on that list.
“I talked to David [Lynn, 14th on the world points list], I talked to Rafa [Cabrera Bello, 13th], to Gonzalo [Fernandez Castaño, 15th], to Alvaro [Quirós, 26th], to Pádraig [19th].
“I made those phone calls. It’s not easy. I mean, obviously I’ve been in that equation, and somehow when you’re not picked, obviously you don’t want that news. But they took it well, and that’s the way it is.”
Justifying his selection of Colsaerts, Olazábal added: “His match-play record is very good. He finished runner-up last year at The World Match Play. He won this year at The World Match Play.
“He’s had a very solid season, and on top of that, he’s made the extra effort trying to make the team. He really showed me that he wants to be a part of that team. Those are the reasons for me to pick him.”
Could Harrington’s decision not to play the Wynham Championship two weeks ago or the final counting event in Scotland have affected his chances?
While Sergio Garcia won in Greensboro to make the side while Colsaerts was seventh and then travelled back to Europe for the Johnnie Walker, Olazábal did not labour the point
“I’ve always said that it was a personal decision,” he said. “I didn’t push the issue with Sergio. Sergio changed his schedule to play Wyndham knowing that he had to do something special; he did that.
“I’m not surprised. I mean, it’s been a long season. Obviously I believe that the players have done the best in their possibilities to make that team, and that’s it. I mean, sometimes you have to miss a tournament here or there, but that’s part of life.”
Harrington, who celebrates his 41st birthday on Friday, had played in six successive Ryder Cups since 1999, winning in 2002, 204, 2006 and 2010.
His failure to get back into the world’s top 50 or win an event over the past two years severely dented his quallifying hopes.
A final hole bogey at the US Open was crucial. Had he made par there, he would have earned an extra 39 world ranking points and moved close to world’s top 50 while a birdie could have earned him a play-off with eventual champion Webb Simpson.
As it is, his share of 19th in The Barclays saw him move to 59th in the latest world rankings, his best position for more than 13 months.