OPINION: Why Harrington Should Have Picked Justin Rose

Former World No.1 Justin Rose is seriously unlucky to miss out on Harrington's European side...

Justin Rose celebrates during the 2018 Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Former World No.1 Justin Rose is seriously unlucky to miss out on Harrington's European side...

The dust is still settling on the Ryder Cup wildcard selections European captain Padraig Harrington made after the conclusion of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Many felt the Irishman made the correct calls.

How could he leave out Ian ‘the Postman’ Poulter?

How could he go without a man who’s played consistently well over the summer (Shane Lowry)?

How could he attempt to take down the Americans on home soil without a European stalwart and someone with an exemplary record away from home (Sergio Garcia)?

The answer is: quite easily.

The three picks were far from the foregone conclusion many made them out to be and Harrington didn’t do himself any favours by reportedly making his mind up a long way in advance.

How else could you justify Sergio Garcia not playing at Wentworth? 

For what it’s worth, I have no issue with the Sergio pick.

His record away from home in the Ryder Cup is excellent and he’s Europe’s all-time leading points scorer.

The arguments for the other two are strong, too, but I find it difficult to see how Justin Rose wasn’t selected in front of both of them.

Don’t get me wrong, Ian Poulter has been phenomenal in the Ryder Cup.

He’s never lost in the singles and he almost single-handedly delivered the trophy for Europe at Medinah in 2012.

His record in match play competition is also more than impressive.

My intention here is not to disparage Poulter but rather to make a comparative case for Rose. 

Ideally, Shane Lowry would have forced his way into the side automatically, thereby allowing Harrington to pick Garcia, Rose and Poulter over Lee Westwood, who’s understandably run out of steam after a busy and successful stretch earlier this year.

Sadly, that scenario failed to materialise and led to Harrington eschewing Rose, which I think was a significant mistake.

Here are four reasons why Rose should have been selected...

Wentworth performance

Justin Rose hits his second shot into the 18th at Wentworth

Rose closed with a 65 to finish T6th at Wentworth

Harrington decided to allocate double points at the BMW PGA Championship to see how contenders rose to the challenge of trying to make the team – something frequently referred to as one of the most mentally-taxing tasks in the world of golf.

Poulter missed the cut, while Rose stormed home with a bogey-free Sunday 65 that could, and should, have been a couple of shots better.

Lowry also wilted while attempting to finish in the top seven and earn an automatic spot.

Being able to turn a corner and produce your best round of the season with all that pressure on your shoulders – passing the test set by the captain with flying colours – surely told Harrington everything he needed to know. 


Many will point to Rose’s form and say it’s not been good enough over the course of the season.

Why exactly does form six months ago matter when it comes to constructing a team that gives you the best chance of winning on American soil?

This year, he’s recorded top-tens in two Majors and another at the European Tour’s flagship event.

He also finished two shots outside a playoff at last month’s Wyndham Championship.

Rose has more top-tens than Poulter in 2021 – despite being considered in poor form – and has won three times since his good friend’s last victory at the 2018 Houston Open.

Lowry also has fewer top-tens than Rose in 2021.   

Ryder Cup record

Rose has been a stalwart of the European Ryder Cup team

Rose also has a fabulous Ryder Cup record.

He’s never delivered fewer than two points in any appearance and has returned three twice and four once.

In five appearances, he’s accrued 14 points – just under three points per event.

That average is higher than Poulter’s (15 points in six appearances).

He also averages just under three points per Ryder Cup in America – a brilliant return.

Poulter’s record is also exceptionally strong, but he hasn’t played an away Ryder Cup since 2012 and has registered just three points in his two appearances since then.

Medinah was spectacular and one of the best performances in the history of professional golf, but it was nine years ago.

Indeed, 11 of Poulter’s 15 Ryder Cup points were won between 2008 and 2012.

Whistling Straits

Justin Rose at the 2015 PGA Championship, Whistling Straits

Rose was fourth at Whilsting Straits in 2015 when it last hosted the PGA Championship

One of my main concerns relates to the nature of the host course, Whistling Straits.

It’s a big, wind-exposed layout with a number of par 4s over the 450-yard mark and four in excess of 500 yards.

Poulter averaged 285 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour in the 2021 season, which makes him one of the shortest hitters on the circuit (ranked 185th).

Rose, by contrast, averages 13 yards more and also has the potential to hit the ball way beyond the 300-yard mark.

I know the Ryder Cup is about passion, heart and desire, and that intangible qualities are more important than data, but it’s hard to exert pressure on your opponents when you’re hitting approaches with hybrids and they’re coming in with mid- to short-irons.

Poulter withdrew from the 2010 PGA and missed the cut in 2015 (both were at Whistling Straits), when Rose finished fourth.

Nick Bonfield
Content Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email nick.bonfield@futurenet.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x