Paul Casey has a story that may well strike fear into the hearts of them all Ryder Cup wannabes who believe they are in line for a wildcard for next month’s match in Rome. Contrary to his reputation as an unassuming Englishman, Luke Donald can be downright ruthless when it comes to selection.
“It was 2005, the year after Luke and I had won the world championship in Seville,” Casey told Telegraph Sport. “I had holed a very nervous four-footer on the 18th for us to win after a final round where my putter had never been so hot. It was great for us, a couple of dreamy young youngsters, wrapped in our country’s flag. We loved it.”
They hugged and drank and vowed to defend their crown 12 months later in the Algarve. And then Anders dropped Casey.
“I was shocked,” Casey says. “As [top-ranked] English, Luke had the choice of who he wanted to choose as his partner and well, because of what we had been through, I just assumed… But Luke called and said he chose David Howell instead.
“Howeller zoomed up the rankings and was in better shape than me but I can’t pretend I wasn’t exhausted. The thing is, Luke just wanted to give England the best chance. That was his priority and you can’t get it wrong. I think they came in second.”
A decade later, Anders experienced his own rejection, his own “It’s not you…” speech from a captain with whom he had enjoyed emotional scenes. When Donald made his Ryder Cup debut in 2004 – a few months before Sevilla – his first partner was Paul McGinley as Europe cruised to a record away success in Detroit.
Again the duo hugged and drank, but there was McGinley, a few weeks before Gleneagles and the 2014 Ryder Cup, telling his old hombre he was sorry but he missed a pick.
Anders was just a few years away from being world No. 1, ranked higher than the three chosen – Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher – and boasted a huge record in the two-year dust-up. He had played four games, been on the triumphant team each time and compiled a winning record [70 per cent] surpassed only by Poulter and Arnold Palmer for anyone who had played in 15 or more matches.
“It hit me hard, I was devastated and no, I didn’t understand,” Donald told Telegraph Sport earlier this year. “To be honest, I still think Paul was wrong.
“But Paul only did it because he thought it was the right thing to do in terms of winning and Europe won – quite comfortably – that year. So you can’t fault him and of course I realized that it wasn’t personal. Whoever I pick and whoever misses out, I’ll assure them of the same. It’s the bad part of the job, but may be the most important part of the job, and I won’t take it lightly on it. Anything but considering what I went through.”
Anders will tread lightly on his spikes before revealing his six wildcards next Monday because he is aware that he will be stepping on people’s dreams. “I know how bad I took it,” he said. “I probably unwisely went a new way with my swing, looking for more length and consistency, and there were injuries and I don’t blame not being selected for my down [as he fell outside the world’s top 400 by the time of the next home Ryder Cup] but it was a blow to self-confidence and was an upset that was difficult to recover from. You think of yourself in a certain way, and as I said, I thought I had enough in the bank after 2012.”
There would have been no miracle in Medinah without Anders. Europe was 10-4 down on Saturday afternoon and while Poulter birdied the last five to ensure he and Rory McIlroy beat Jason Dufner and this year’s US captain Zach Johnson to give Europe a lifeline, Donald threw his own. rubber ring. He followed up Tiger Woods’ strike to four feet on the 17th by chipping a seven-iron to two feet on the par three.
“No, I wouldn’t have thought it would be that for me as a European player,” he said. “But the Ryder Cup is not about me or any one person. I found that out the hard way, if you will. I’ll understand how the guys who don’t get in will feel and I’ll identify with that. But I’m ready to make the big calls.”
Bob MacIntyre in pole position
In truth, the bombs have been limited due to the LIV golfers pulling out en masse. Instead, all Anders has to worry about are the players who are qualified and coming on Sunday to the European Masters, which starts in Switzerland on Thursday, Bob MacIntyre can confirm his seat among the automatic qualifiers on Sunday night.
Five others at the Crans-sur-Sierre final could dislodge the Scot at the death, but everyone knows they would have to finish in the top three to have a chance. MacIntyre looks comfortable and will surely join McIlroy, Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowy, Justin Rose and Sepp Straka on the plane. Poland’s Adrian Meronk should be another and that the uber-talented Ludvig Abergthe rookie, who has played in just nine pro events since joining the pro ranks, has emerged as the potential bolter.
Anders will be brave if he has to be. And Casey will testify that he also has the ability to be ruthless.