Mark James’ Ryder Cup dream teamMarch, 2014
We asked the seven-time player, two-time assistant and 1999 Ryder Cup captain the task of naming the best team
First off, and worth several people in the team room, would be Seve Ballesteros. He would be my on-course leader and I’d have him hit the opening tee shot.
In 1995 he had finished his singles against Tom Lehman and Howard Clark, Seve and I went to the players’ lounge to get a quick sandwich. We were watching David Gilford, who Seve had partnered, who had hit it over the back of the 18th green. David wasn’t the most brilliant of chippers and got the putter out. At the top of his voice, Seve shouted ‘no!’ and ran out to try and stop David messing it up. He holed it from 10 feet to halve his match.
Next would be Colin Montgomerie. One of the best and easy to pair, Colin would play with anyone if he thought it was in the team’s interests. He got awful stick at Brookline but couldn’t have given any more. Brilliant at foursomes.
I captained Sergio Garcia on his debut and, even as a teenager, he offered such a good presence in the team room as well as well as being a brilliant player. Next a third Spaniard, Jose Maria Olazabal, who would obviously play all four matches with Seve. His record, passion and brilliance speaks for itself and all of the top four have records of around 0.60 or better.
In the middle order I would have Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke who both have a playing record of 0.58. Both would play as much as you wanted. Lee is currently only four points short of Faldo’s points record.
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Bernard always seemed to perform better than you might think. He was a feisty, awkward opponent. Two more greats from the mid-1980s onwards, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer, are also included. Ian’s record is overshadowed by not winning a singles match in eight starts, which was strange, but his fourball record was incredible with only three defeats in 14 outings. Likewise Bernhard’s foursomes efforts.
We go back a bit further back in time with Peter Oosterhuis and Bernard Gallacher. Their records don’t quite match up but they were playing in a period when the Americans were winning every match. Peter was a wonderful player; he looked a bit strange with his action and was criticised for having his right foot slipping all over the place but he won in America and was pretty dominant in Europe.
Bernard always seemed to perform better than you might think. He was a feisty, awkward opponent.
My last two picks span the eras. First comes Howard Clark who I felt was more valuable than his record might suggest. Howard was a very good ball striker. He could spray it about at times but under pressure his magical short game would take the strain.
Finally we have a choice between Nick Faldo and Brian Huggett. Both holed crucial four-foot putts, Brian in 1969 at Birkdale when he was the last match in before the Jacklin-Nicklaus match while Nick’s win over Curtis Strange in 1995 was pivotal. I’m going to go with Brian. The Americans were all over us but Brian would always be a match for them. Nick has scored more points than any European but I don’t think his record (0.54) was good enough for a player who was a World No 1 and topped our money list numerous times.