Captain's picks (or wild-card picks) haven't always been a part of the Ryder Cup. However, they've become an integral part of the biennial competition pitting 12-man teams representing the United States against Europe in a 27 matches over three days.
The Europeans were the first side to create captain's picks, doing so in 1979, the first year that continental Europe became eligible to join what was previous a team of golfers only from Great Britain and Ireland (like the Walker Cup, the amateur equivalent). They've been doing it ever since, with the exception of 1983, adding two or three players to their team at the captain's discretion.
The United States began employing captain's picks in 1989, and they've done so in every Ryder Cup since, adding anywhere from two to four players to their team.
Some captain's picks have proven instrumental in helping their team win, or at least remain competitive. Others have been total flops. Others still have seen little action in the matches.
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