Ryder Cup – wildcards

The wildcard issue is never out of the headlines in the build-up to the Ryder Cup. But do captain’s picks make a difference?

The wildcard issue is never out of the headlines in the build-up to the Ryder Cup.

Both captains’ every move and utterance are analysed in ludicrous detail for clues or tells and their final announcements are awaited with the same anticipation afforded Oscar winners or new Popes.

But do these wildcard selections really have such an impact on the destination of the Ryder Cup?

Or are they, in every sense, just making up the numbers?

The American side have only used captain’s picks since the 1989 Ryder Cup so we will use that tournament as the starting point for our analysis.

The tables below show the wildcard picks on both sides for the last seven Ryder Cups with the results and points scored by each player.

1989 Belfry – EUROPE 14 USA 14

Played Fourballs/foursomes Singles Points
Clark 4 L,W,W Lost 2
Langer 3 L,L Lost 0
O’Connor 2 L Won 1
Wadkins 3 L,L Won 1
Watson 3 H,L Won

European captain Tony Jacklin is allowed three picks who enjoy contrasting fortunes. Bernhard Langer fails to score a point, Howard Clark wins two points in tandem with Mark James but is thrashed 8&7 by Tom Kite in his singles while Christy O’Connor emerges as one of the European heroes. Locked together with Fred Couples coming up the last he hits a fantastic two-iron to four feet which secures a valuable point. Tom Watson and Lanny Wadkins are the first US wildcard picks in the history of the event, the latter a surprise choice after missing six of his last eight cuts. They manage just 0.5pts out of four over the first two days but both win their singles after the Cup has already been retained by Europe to help the Americans pull level at 14-14.

1991 Kiawah Island – USA 14½ EUROPE 13½

Played Fourballs/foursomes Singles Points
USA 7 3
Beck 3 L,L Won 1
Floyd 4 W,W,L Lost 2
Faldo 4 L,L,L Won 1
James 5 L,W,L,W Lost 2
Olazabal 5 W,W,W,H Lost

Bernard Gallacher’s wildcards virtually pick themselves as he names the experienced trio of Nick Faldo, Mark James and Jose Maria Olazabal. Ollie, in tandem with Seve Ballesteros, wins 3.5 points out of four over the first two days but loses his singles to Paul Azinger. James also plays all five matches, winning two points but Faldo fails to put anything on the board on the first two days before redeeming himself with a singles win over Ray Floyd, one of the two US wildcards. Floyd does make a contribution however, having earlier won two from three. Chip Beck loses twice on day one and is rested on the second day but comes out fighting in the singles to beat Ian Woosnam 3&1.

1993 Belfry – EUROPE 13 USA 15