Ahead of the BMW PGA Championship, things were lining up perfectly for Padraig Harrington. Shane Lowry was projected to take up one of the auto qualifiers, leaving Harrington with the three veterans he’s always preferred: Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
But Rory McIlroy decided not to tee it up at the BMW, which allowed Bernd Wiesberger to overtake him in the European standings with nothing more than a made cut. This forced McIlroy to take up a spot on the world points list, effectively knocking out Shane Lowry from an automatic spot.
This left Harrington with four players (Lowry, Garcia, Poulter and Rose) and only three spots .
Harrington made the “difficult” decision of making Rose the odd man out.
“I talked to Justin a few weeks ago, and you know, he was very keen that he was going to work on his game, get his game ready, and look, he did,” said Harrington. “But ultimately, Bernd went in and stole his thunder and got in there and got that automatic position, which you know, in the end of the day, just there wasn’t enough room.
“That’s the tough thing with the picks. There is a point where — there’s not a huge deal of difference, either. It’s not like the three picks, while I’m happy with them and very comfortable with them, clearly people could have argued all the way for Justin, and as I said, Alex [Noren] had exceptional stats coming into this.”
He added, “It was difficult to have to ring him. He played well enough to be on the team. He pushed hard at the end, but there wasn’t a spot ultimately.”
Asked if he’d have preferred more captain’s picks like Steve Stricker?
“No, we couldn’t have the same number of picks,” he said. “We have our European points list. We have to deal with players who — even you just look at Covid, who struggle to travel across the continent and can’t play all the events they want to play.
“Europe is in a distinctly different position. We are picking off different orders. In years gone by, we have been waiting for U.S. Tour events to finish picking our team. It’s a very complicated system in Europe that needs to be considered by each individual captain how he wants to do it, depending on the closing date of the event. Lots of little reasons.
“As I said at one stage during Covid, I was offered eight picks, and with eight picks, because it was very broad in Covid, we were thinking no golf for six months into the Ryder Cup – you know, you might have 20 people, 20-plus people who might have a thought of making the team.
“That’s 730,000 combinations of teams you can make up out of that. More picks — it was tough making a pick. I had three picks, and it was tough leaving Justin Rose out. There’s always going to be somebody on the bubble.”