Ryder Cup Captain's Picks and How They've Fared

Nick Faldo at the 1996 Ryder Cup
Nick Faldo was a captain's pick four times, more than any other Ryder Cup player. Faldo is pictured above at the 1997 Ryder Cup. J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

In 1979, when the Ryder Cup first included a Team Europe (after expanding the Great Britain & Ireland team to include golfers from all across Europe), the European team introduced captain's picks to the matches. In 1989, Team USA began making captain's picks, as well. While the specifics have changed multiple times since, the general idea remains the same: The majority of players on both teams are selected through an automatic qualifying process, with some spots on the team reserved to be filled at the discretion of the team captains.

(Prior to the use of captain's picks, Ryder Cup teams were selected entirely from points lists, by committee, or by a combination of automatic qualifying criteria and committee deliberation.)

Over the years, some captain's picks have been obvious selections, others have been controversial ("I can't believe the captain picked that guy for the team! So-and-so would be a much better choice!). Some wildcard selections have been heroes in their side's victory, others have been goats in their side's loss.

Below is the list of every golfer who has been a Ryder Cup captain's pick, and those wildcards' records at each Ryder Cup since 1979. (The captains who made the selections are listed in parentheses next to team names.) Overall bests and worsts - most wins as captain's pick, losses, etc. - are listed on Page 2 of this feature.

1979: USA 17, Europe 11

Europe (John Jacobs)
• Peter Oosterhuis, 2-2-0
• Des Smyth, 0-2-0

1981: USA 18.5, Europe 9.5

Europe (John Jacobs)
• Mark James, 2-3-0
• Peter Oosterhuis, 0-3-0

Peter Oosterhuis required wildcards in 1979 and 1981 because he had left the European Tour to play full time on the PGA Tour. Oosterhuis compiled a 6-2-1 record in Ryder Cup singles, but he lost both his singles matches as captain's picks.

In 1979, he lost to Hubert Green, 2-down; and in 1981, he lost to Raymond Floyd, 1-down. Had Oosterhuis won either of those matches, he would have set a Ryder Cup record of seven singles victory - a record that would still stand today. As it is, Oosterhuis still shares the Ryder Cup record of six wins in singles, with six other players.

1983
Captain's picks not used this year.

1985: Europe 16.5, USA 11.5

Europe (Tony Jacklin)
• Jose Rivero, 1-1-0
• Ken Brown, 1-2-0
• Nick Faldo, 0-2-0

The 1985 Ryder Cup was the Americans' first loss in 28 years. Luckily for Europe, they didn't need much of a contribution from their captain's picks, because they didn't get much of one.

1987: Europe 15, USA 13

Europe (Tony Jacklin)
• Sandy Lyle, 3-1-0
• Jose María Olazabal, 3-2-0
• Ken Brown, 0-2-0

The 1987 Ryder Cup marked Sandy Lyle's last appearance as a player, and Jose Maria Olazabal's first, and both were wildcard selections. And each contributed three points to Europe's win. Each of Olazabal's three victories came as partner to Seve Ballesteros, the debut of the "Spanish Armada," the most successful pairing in Ryder Cup history. Europe's win this year was its first ever on United States soil.

1989: Europe 14, USA 14

Europe (Tony Jacklin)
• Howard Clark, 2-2-0
• Christy O’Connor Jr., 1-1-0
• Bernhard Langer, 0-3-0

USA (Raymond Floyd)
• Lanny Wadkins, 2-2-0
• Tom Watson, 1-1-1

Team USA introduced captain's picks this year, and Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson were the first ones. The teams halved the matches, which meant Europe, as holder of the Cup, retained it. Wadkins and Watson each won his singles match, keeping USA hopes alive. But one of the key points for Europe was captain's pick Christy O'Connor Jr.'s singles victory over Fred Couples by a 1-up score.

1991: USA 14.5, Europe 13.5

Europe (Bernard Gallacher)
• Jose María Olazabal, 3-1-1
• Mark James, 2-3-0
• Nick Faldo, 1-3-0

USA (Dave Stockton)
• Raymond Floyd, 2-2-0
• Chip Beck, 1-2-0

The teams were tied 8-8 entering Sunday singles, and captain's pick Nick Faldo beat captain's pick Floyd in one of those singles matches.

But Olazabal and Mark James lost their singles matches, while Chip Beck won his.

1993: USA 15, Europe 13

Europe (Bernard Gallacher)
• Seve Ballesteros, 2-2-0
• Jose María Olazabal, 2-3-0
• Joakim Haeggman, 1-1-0

USA (Tom Watson)
• Raymond Floyd, 3-1-0
• Lanny Wadkins, 2-1-1

USA captain Tom Watson made Raymond Floyd, at age 51, the oldest Ryder Cup player ever. And Floyd rewarded Watson's choice by going 3-1-0, and by winning a key singles match over Olazabal.

1995: Europe 14.5, USA 13.5

Europe (Bernard Gallacher)
• Nick Faldo, 2-2-0
• Ian Woosnam, 1-1-1

USA (Lanny Wadkins)
• Fred Couples, 2-1-1
• Curtis Strange, 0-3-0

Curtis Strange was one of the more controversial captain's picks in Ryder Cup history, a selection made by USA skipper Wadkins. Wadkins wanted Strange's experience and leadership on the team. But Strange hadn't won a PGA Tour event in six years.

Strange's last win was the 1989 U.S. Open, his second straight. At the 1988 U.S. Open, Strange won by beating Faldo in an 18-hole playoff. Strange's opponent in singles at this Ryder Cup? Faldo. Strange was 1-up with three holes to play, but finished bogey-bogey-bogey to give Faldo the 1-up victory. It was a key point for Europe, which had begun the final day two points behind, but finished it one point in front.

1997: Europe 14.5, USA 13.5

Europe (Seve Ballesteros)
• Jesper Parnevik, 1-1-2
• Nick Faldo, 2-3-0

USA (Tom Kite)
• Lee Janzen, 2-1-0
• Fred Couples, 2-2-0

1999: USA 14.5, Europe 13.5

Europe (Mark James)
• Jesper Parnevik, 3-1-1
• Andrew Coltart, 0-1-0

USA (Ben Crenshaw)
• Tom Lehman, 2-1-0
• Steve Pate, 2-1-0

The 1999 Ryder Cup is famous (or infamous, depending on which side you cheer for) for the Americans' historic comeback in singles to win. Tom Lehman and Steve Pate each won his singles match, with Lehman going out first on that final day and beating Lee Westwood, 3 and 2. European captain Mark James kept three of his players on the bench until the singles, including Andrew Coltart, one of his wildcards. All three - Coltart, Jean Van de Velde and Jarmo Sandelin - lost the one match each did get to play.

2002: Europe 15.5, USA 12.5

Europe (Sam Torrance)
• Sergio Garcia, 3-2-0
• Jesper Parnevik, 0-1-1

USA (Curtis Strange)
• Scott Verplank, 2-1-0
• Paul Azinger, 0-1-1

This was the final Ryder Cup appearance for both Jesper Parnevik and Paul Azinger. Each went out earning only a half-point for his respective side.

2004: Europe 18.5, USA 9.5

Europe (Bernhard Langer)
• Colin Montgomerie, 3-1-0
• Luke Donald, 2-1-1

USA (Hal Sutton)
• Stewart Cink, 1-2-1
• Jay Haas, 1-2-1

Europe's win was it biggest in Ryder Cup history to this point. It was only appropriate that Colin Montgomerie, one of the best players in the competition's history, sank the putt that earned the clinching point for the Euros. This year was Luke Donald's debut at the Ryder Cup.

2006: Europe 18.5, USA 9.5

Europe (Ian Woosnam)
• Darren Clarke, 3-0-0
• Lee Westwood, 3-0-2

USA (Tom Lehman)
• Scott Verplank, 2-0-0
• Stewart Cink, 1-1-3

Another runaway win for Europe, and Ian Woosnam's wildcards did their part: unbeaten in eight matches. Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood combined to earn seven points. Clarke was playing only about a month after the death of his wife from breast cancer.

2008: USA 16.5, Europe 11.5

Europe (Nick Faldo)
• Ian Poulter, 4-1-0
• Paul Casey, 0-1-2

USA (Paul Azinger)
• J.B. Holmes, 2-0-1
• Hunter Mahan, 2-0-3
• Steve Stricker, 0-2-1
• Chad Campbell, 2-1-0

J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker were three of six rookies on the American side. Ian Poulter was a rare bright spot for Europe, which had won the previous two Cups by Euro-record margins.

2010: Europe 14.5, USA 13.5

Europe (Colin Montgomerie)
• Luke Donald, 3-1-0
• Padraig Harrington, 2-2-0
• Edoardo Molinari, 0-1-2

USA (Corey Pavin)
• Tiger Woods, 3-1-0
• Zach Johnson, 2-1-0
• Stewart Cink, 1-0-3
• Rickie Fowler, 0-1-2

Tiger Woods' captain's pick was necessitated by the time he missed to injury and scandal following his car accident in November 2009 and the subsequent ending of his marriage. It was a controversial pick, too, because Woods was definitely out of sorts. But Tiger was a bright spot for captain Corey Pavin. And so was Donald for captain Montgomerie, whose side was the victor.

2012: Europe 14.5, USA 13.5

Europe (Jose Maria Olazabal)
• Ian Poulter, 4-0-0
• Nicolas Colsaerts, 1-3-0

USA (Davis Love III)
• Jim Furyk, 1-2-0
• Dustin Johnson, 3-0-0
• Steve Stricker, 0-4-0
• Brandt Snedeker, 1-2-0

Both sides had selections who went unbeaten - but USA also had one who went winless. For Europe, Poulter kept the team's hopes alive with three points over the first two days, then helped lead the European comeback in singles with a come-from-behind win of his own.

2014: Europe 16.5, USA 11.5

Europe (Paul McGinley)

  • Ian Poulter, 0-1-2
  • Stephen Gallacher, 0-2-0
  • Lee Westwood, 2-2-0

USA (Tom Watson)

  • Keegan Bradley, 1-2-0
  • Hunter Mahan, 1-2-1
  • Webb Simpson, 0-1-1

2016: USA 17, Europe 11

Europe (Darren Clarke)

  • Martin Kaymer, 1-3-0
  • Thomas Pieters, 4-1-0
  • Lee Westwood, 0-3-0

USA (Davis Love III)

  • J.B. Holmes, 1-2-0
  • Rickie Fowler, 2-1-0
  • Matt Kuchar, 2-3-0
  • Ryan Moore, 2-1-0

Although Pieters' squad lost badly, he became the first rookie in Team Europe history to earn 4 points in a Ryder Cup.

We listed every Ryder Cup captain's pick and his record in each Ryder Cup played on the previous page. Now, here are the bests and worsts by those wildcard selections - the golfers who've been a captain's pick most often, who won and lost the most matches as a wildcard, and more, similar tournament records.

Golfers Who've Been Captain's Picks Multiple Times
Through the 2016 matches, a total of 17 golfers have been selected more than once as a captain's pick.

  • 4 times - Nick Faldo (1985, 1991, 1995, 1997)
  • 3 times - *Jose Maria Olazabal (1987, 1991, 1993), Jesper Parnevik (1997, 1999, 2002), Stewart Cink (2004, 2006, 2010), Ian Poulter (2008, 2012, 2014), Lee Westwood (2006, 2014, 2016)

  • 2 times - Peter Oosterhuis (1979, 1981), Mark James (1981, 1991), Ken Brown (1985, 1987), Lanny Wadkins (1989, 1993), Raymond Floyd (1991, 1993), Fred Couples (1995, 1997), Scott Verplank (2002, 2006), Luke Donald (2004, 2010), Steve Stricker (2008, 2012); J.B. Holmes (2008, 2016), Rickie Fowler (2010, 2016)

*Olazabal also selected (a fourth time) in 1995, but withdrew due to injury prior to the start of the Ryder Cup and was replaced on the European team by Ian Woosnam.

Win-Loss Records of All Golfers Who've Been Multiple Captain's Picks
Players are listed in order from best winning percentage (in parentheses) to worst.

  • Ian Poulter, 8-2-2 (.750)
  • Scott Verplank, 4-1-0 (.800)
  • Luke Donald, 5-2-1 (.688)
  • Raymond Floyd, 5-3-0 (.625)
  • J.B. Holmes, 3-2-1 (.583)
  • Jose Maria Olazabal, 8-6-1 (.567)
  • Fred Couples, 4-3-1 (.563)
  • Lanny Wadkins, 4-3-1 (.563)
  • Jesper Parnevik, 4-3-4 (.545)
  • Lee Westwood, 5-5-2 (.500)
  • Stewart Cink, 3-3-7 (.500)
  • Rickie Fowler, 2-2-2 (.500)
  • Mark James, 4-6-0 (.400)
  • Nick Faldo, 5-10-0 (.333)
  • Peter Oosterhuis, 2-5-0 (.285)
  • Ken Brown, 1-4-0 (.200)
  • Steve Stricker, 0-6-1 (.071)

Most Matches Won By a Captain's Pick, Overall
8 - Jose Maria Olazabal (1987, 1991, 1993)
8 - Ian Poulter (2008, 2012, 2014)

Most Matches Lost By a Captain's Pick, Overall
10 - Nick Faldo (1985, 1991, 1995, 1997)

Captain's Picks Unbeaten and Untied In a Single Ryder Cup
Scott Verplank, 2006, 2-0-0
Darren Clarke, 2006, 3-0-0
Ian Poulter, 2012, 4-0-0
Dustin Johnson, 2012, 3-0-0

Captain's Picks Unbeaten (But with Ties) In a Single Ryder Cup
Lee Westwood, 2006, 3-0-2
J.B. Holmes, 2008, 2-0-1
Hunter Mahan, 2008, 2-0-3
Stewart Cink, 2010, 1-0-3

Captain's Picks with No Wins or Ties In a Single Ryder Cup
Des Smith, 1979, 0-2-0
Peter Oosterhuis, 1981, 0-3-0
Nick Faldo, 1985, 0-2-0
Ken Brown, 1987, 0-2-0
Bernhard Langer, 1989, 0-3-0
Curtis Strange, 1995, 0-3-0
Andrew Coltart, 1999, 0-1-0
Steve Stricker, 2012, 0-4-0
Stephen Gallacher, 2014, 0-2-0
Lee Westwood, 2016, 0-3-0

Most Matches Won By a Captain's Pick In a Single Ryder Cup
4 - Ian Poulter (4-1-0), 2008
4 - Ian Poulter (4-0-0), 2012
4 - Thomas Pieters (4-1-0), 2016

Most Matches Lost By a Captain's Pick In a Single Ryder Cup
4 - Steve Stricker (0-4-0), 2012
3 - Peter Oosterhuis, 1981; Mark James, 1981; Berhnard Langer, 1989; Mark James, 1991; Nick Faldo, 1991; Jose Maria Olazabal, 1993; Curtis Strange, 1995; Nick Faldo, 1997; Nicolas Colsaerts, 2012; Lee Westwood, 2016; Martin Kaymer, 2016; Matt Kuchar, 2016

(Sources: PGA of America, RyderCup.com, About.com research)