The experience Thomas Bjorn has added to the side may well be the key ingredient to European success
Why Thomas Bjorn Got The Ryder Cup Wildcard Picks Right
Thomas Bjorn’s much anticipated European Ryder Cup wildcard picks are in, and Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson were the four men to get the nod.
The announcement came with much criticism, considering that Casey, Garcia and Stenson hadn’t necessarily had their best years and other players had shown form.
The exclusion of Matt Wallace, who won three times this year including at last week’s Made in Denmark, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Thomas Pieters was questioned, although Bjorn has ultimately made the correct choice in my opinion.
The European team will have five rookies going to France, and whilst they are all world class players used to competing at the highest level, the Ryder Cup is a completely different kettle of fish.
In 2016 Europe had six rookies and it backfired, and this time out the USA side has just two rookies – and they are former world number one, major champion and nine-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas, and world number seven Bryson DeChambeau who is just about the hottest player on the planet right now.
The fact that Wallace was not included, despite his incredible victory in Denmark, shows that Bjorn wanted as much experience on that team as he could get. That is harsh on Wallace, but completely understandable.
So why didn’t he choose Thomas Pieters or Rafa Cabrera Bello? Both men have experience and good records in their only Ryder Cup last time out where Pieters became the first European rookie in history to win four points and Cabrera Bello was undefeated.
However, Bjorn has clearly got his pairings finalised, or at least semi finalised, already and that’s where Rafa may well have come up short.
Cabrera Bello and Garcia formed a brilliant partnership in 2016 but for Le Golf National Bjorn must be thinking about a partner for rookie Jon Rahm, and who else fits the bill better than eight-time Ryder Cupper Sergio Garcia?
Expect to see Rahm with Sergio in Paris, who by the way has had two weeks working on his game and still has over three weeks left before a ball is struck.
His experience and incredible ball striking will be an asset to the team. He was also a vice captain in 2010 and will be able to make a difference in the team room.
The 2017 Masters champion was T8th at the Open de France at Le Golf National this year so knows how to play the course and was T24th in his last start at the Wyndham Championship where he showed signs of his best stuff on the first 3 1/2 days.
Henrik Stenson, like Garcia, will also make the perfect partner but for two players, not just one.
He and Justin Rose have paired up six times and won four of their six matches together, including three of four fourball games.
Bjorn, just like rookie Rahm, will have been looking for someone to pair with Alex Noren who makes his first appearance too. Step up Henrik Stenson.
The Iceman has struggled a little on the course this year but has had an elbow injury for the latter part of the season.
However, he has still managed a T5th at The Masters and a T6th at the US Open and missed just two cuts in his last 27 events.
Casey and Poulter, for me, were dead-certs to get on the side.
Ian Poulter, because of his Ryder Cup pedigree and the fact that he has shown some brilliant guts to climb back up the world rankings over the past 18 months, meant he was always going to be on the team.
He was outside of the world’s top 200 last March and has reached a high of 26th this year thanks to his Houston Open win and eight top 20s around the world, including a T5 at the WGC-Match Play, T11th at the Players, T8th at the Italian Open and T10th at the WGC-Bridgestone.
Poulter’s win in Houston to qualify for The Masters was special, and his desire to make the Ryder Cup team was commendable.
He occupied the final spot with just a few events left but was eventually overtaken by Thorbjorn Olesen.
Thomas Bjorn's European Ryder Cup team is now…
Jim Furyk's USA Ryder Cup side is complete
Thomas Bjorn now has the difficult decision of…
Paul Casey re-joined the European Tour this year to specifically make the side and played under Bjorn at this year’s EurAsia Cup where he impressed.
The Englishman is currently world number 16 and he has been inside the world’s top 20 for two years now.
He is one of the game’s most consistent players and despite being criticised for a lack of bottle or not enough victories, he did win on the PGA Tour this year at the Valspar Championship and, as Bjorn said in his wildcard announcement, is a great match player.
Around Le Golf National, Casey will be very reliable team member and will likely partner fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and/or Tyrrell Hatton.
For those saying that Europe have lost the Ryder Cup already, take a look at the quality on this team and find some optimism.
Europe have home advantage, the past two Open de France champions and a number of the world’s finest players.
Yes, USA do look strong but they haven’t won on European soil in 25 years and the experience that Bjorn has added to his side may well be the key to victory in Paris.
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