Thursday 17 October 2019

Thomas Bjorn goes for Ryder Cup experience as Sergio Garcia is included among veteran captain's picks

Europe Captain Thomas Bjorn during the Team Europe Ryder Cup Wildcard announcement at Sky Central, London.
Europe Captain Thomas Bjorn during the Team Europe Ryder Cup Wildcard announcement at Sky Central, London.
Sergio Garcia

Thomas Bjorn has gambled on experience for his Ryder Cup wildcard picks, surprisingly picking Sergio Garcia despite the Spaniard missing the cut at his last five majors and saying that heading to the tournament without him would be like “a football team without their captain.”

Garcia was included alongside fan favourite Ian Poulter, who always seems to thrive in the heat of Ryder Cup matchplay and was praised by Bjorn for his frame of mind. Paul Casey had long been considered a likely pick for Bjorn to make and the Englishman was, Bjorn said, a “no-brainer” and was included alongside Henrik Stenson to provide experience to a team that is otherwise short on Ryder Cup knowhow.

First-timers Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen are already locked into Bjorn’s team via rankings, as well as veterans Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari and Justin Rose.

Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Englishman Matt Wallace will be the most disappointed to have missed out, but eventually it was the make-up of those who had already qualified for the team automatically that cost the pair of rising stars, with five Ryder Cup rookies already in the European team.

Cabrera-Bello, who is currently ahead of Garcia in the world rankings and scored 2.5 out of a possible 3 points in his only Ryder Cup appearance, can feel particularly disappointed to have just missed out on playing at Le Golf National at the end of the month. He finished tied for seventh in last week’s Dell Technologies Championship, which would have leapfrogged him above final qualifier Olesen for the last automatic berth via the rankings had the cut-off been Monday and not Sunday.

"I've done everything I can," he said on Monday after his final round.

"I love the Ryder Cup, and it would be a huge honour to represent my continent again. And I would be 100 per cent available if Thomas needs me."

In the end, Bjorn went for experience over Cabrera-Bello’s energy and youth and admitted as much in his comments after announcing his picks on Wednesday afternoon.

"These four all bring so much to the Ryder Cup, they bring loads of experience, they know what it feels to win and lose.

"[Stenson] is great for looking after some of the youngsters,” Bjorn said of the Swede’s inclusion, pegging him as a father figure for the rookies.

Garcia acknowledged his role will come in helping the new additions settle in: "It is very exciting for me to be part of a Ryder Cup team," he told Sky Sports.

"I’m going to give everything I have on the course and in the team room with some of the rookies, to make them more comfortable."

Europe are attempting to win back the trophy after being well-beaten at Hazeltine National in Minnesota in 2016 -- their first loss in the biennial match since 2008.

The 42nd Ryder Cup takes place at Le Golf National in Paris from Sept. 28-30.

Full Europe team: Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson.

Full US team: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau. (12th pick TBC)

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