By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) - Fan favorite Andrew Johnston has played down his chances of gaining a wildcard selection for next month's Ryder Cup, the bearded Englishman saying he would not pick himself if he was captain of Europe's team.
The idiosyncratic Johnston won a host of new admirers around the world for the smiling way he interacted with the galleries while finishing eighth in last month's British Open at Troon.
The 27-year-old won his first European Tour event at the Spanish Open in April and has rocketed from 220th in the world rankings at the end of last year to number 89.
Johnston is outside the top nine automatic spots for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, Minnesota but has been mooted as one of skipper Darren Clarke's three wildcard choices.
"I don't think I'm very close and I think that's fair," Johnston told Sky Sports television. "There are a lot of guys playing good golf.
"If I was the captain I wouldn't pick myself. I'd pick Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Russell Knox, they are class players."
The top nine on the Ryder Cup points list with two counting events to go, the Czech Masters and the Made In Denmark tournament, are Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick.
The portly Johnston, nicknamed 'Beef', does not look like a typical professional golfer and some critics have called on him to get rid of his bushy beard. But he is having none of it.
"I'm keeping it, the more people say things, the longer I'll keep it," said Johnston. "You shouldn't have to look a certain way to play sport, or to do anything in life.
"I'm a person who always stays true to his word and will fight for what I believe in. If they think it's bad for the game it's ridiculous."
Holders Europe begin the defense of the Ryder Cup on Sept. 30.
(Editing by Toby Davis)