In just a few days, we’ll be into the thick of the Ryder Cup at long last, and both Luke Donald and Zach Johnson, the captains of their respective teams, will be under the microscope. They’ll be judged on several factors, but the easiest is also the most obvious: captain’s picks. Each captain added six players to his roster—fully half the team—and while some were no-brainers, others (Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, Shane Lowry, Nicolai Hojgaard) have already come in for a fair amount of scrutiny. The success or failure of those picks will help define the legacy of each captain. successful

With that in mind, let’s take a tour through history and revisit the 15 best captain’s picks ever made, based partly on record and partly on circumstance. Keep in mind that although the Ryder Cup has been around since 1927, Europe didn’t start using captain’s picks until 1979 (and took a year off in 1983), while the U.S. didn’t make its first captain’s picks until 1989.

15: Jose Maria Olazabal, 1987

Record: 3-2-0 3-2-0 is the worst record of any player on this list, but the reason Jose Maria makes the No. 15 spot is that Tony Jacklin had the wits to take him as a rookie, and then to pair him with Seve Ballesteros in a duo that never accomplished much … except to become, by far, the greatest twosome in Ryder Cup history. Here, they won their first three matches, with Olazabal sinking a bevy of clutch putts as Ballesteros guided him around the course. He lost his final two matches, but it was enough to give Europe its first win on American soil, and to launch the Spanish Armada that would give the Americans fits for years.

14: Sergio Garcia, 2021

3-1-0 In the “glory amid a stomping” department, we offer Garcia, who won all three pairs matches with Jon Rahm in the latest installment of the Spanish Armada at Whistling Straits. The end result of the event was an historic 19-11 drubbing by the Americans, but Garcia came through for Padraig Harrington and managed to defeat players like Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth twice each.

13: Jose Maria Olazabal, 1991 106001215

David Cannon

3-1-1 Three Spanish players in a row? That’s right, we’re going right back to Olazabal. For Bernard Gallacher, it didn’t take a lot of brains to pick Olazabal, who was next in line on the points rankings and literally ranked second in the world, so this one is more about performance than surprise. In any case, he teamed with Seve yet again to win 3½ points in four matches, and also dealt Paul Azinger two Friday losses that remain among the most memorable—not to say bitter—of his career. The post-script here, though, is that Azinger got his revenge with a win against Olazabal in Sunday singles, and the Americans squeaked out an important win at the “War by the Shore.”

12: Xander Schauffele, 2021

3-1-0 Let’s go right back to Whistling Straits, where Schauffele cemented the brilliance of his partnership with Patrick Cantlay by winning two foursomes matches—including a statement drubbing of Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter in the anchor match of the first session—and also won a four-ball match with Dustin Johnson before getting a deserved rest on Saturday afternoon. He got beat by McIlroy on Sunday, but at that point, it didn’t matter; the lead was so massive that the Americans couldn’t lose, and Schauffele played an integral role in getting them there.

This article was originally published on