Who will make up Thomas Bjorn’s four Ryder Cup picks?
European captain has a selection headache ahead of making his picks on Wednesday
Eight possibilities but who will be the four men Thomas Bjorn will select for the European Ryder Cup team? Photo: Getty Images
The hardest part of the job is at hand for Thomas Bjorn, who will be the bearer of bad news for some players; and make phone calls of a more pleasant nature to others. After a Ryder Cup qualifying campaign which ended in Denmark on Sunday giving him five debutants in his team for Paris, it now all comes down to his four captain’s picks to complete the 12-man team . . . . and the simple fact is that he is going to have to disappoint a number of players.
While his opposite number Jim Furyk appears to have rather more straightforward decisions in selecting his wild cards, with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau set to get places when the US captain announces three names on Tuesday, reserving his fourth and final selection until next Monday, Bjorn’s task if an altogether more complex affair.
In truth, up to eight names will be swirling around Bjorn’s brain: Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Thomas Pieters and Matt Wallace, who claimed a third win of the season under the spotlight in the Made in Denmark tournament.
Of the golfing octet, Wallace is actually the player most in form – he has jumped from 127th in the world at the start of the year up to 54th – but, in reality, he is also the one with the least chance of getting the nod from Bjorn. Historically in the Ryder Cup, experience has been viewed as an asset and, given that he already has five rookies in his team following the yearlong qualifying process, Bjorn is unlikely to add to the load. Knox, too, could fall victim to the same logic.
“It must be so difficult for a captain picking and for someone who hasn’t quite made the team, like myself, because you had all year and you didn’t quite do it and now you can’t do anything about it,” acknowledged Knox of the predicament facing Bjorn.
For sure, Bjorn’s task will be a difficult one that could well go right up to his name-calling on Wednesday afternoon: if form were the main criteria, then Pieters – who formed such a strong partnership with Rory McIlroy two years ago – has again put up his hand with three top-10s in his last five events; while Cabrera-Bello, who missed cuts at three Rolex series events (French, Irish and Scottish Opens) in a difficult summer stretch, has shown a return to form of late, including a top-10 in the US PGA.
If anything, it is the older war horses who are having he more difficult time. Stenson has been nursing an injury, and hasn’t had a top-10 since the US Open in June. Poulter’s last top-10 finish on tour came in the Italian Open, also back in June. But his Ryder Cup record is so strong that the moniker of “The Postman” – because he always delivers – is one that will likely stand him well.
And what of Garcia? The Spaniard – once seen as an obvious partner for Jon Rahm – has endured a tough time this season. Garcia’s last top-10 was actually on the Ryder Cup course in June at the French Open but he has missed three cuts in five tournaments since then.
Casey – who is certain to get the nod – admitted, “I think it’s a tricky situation for Thomas. A lot goes into that decision. It’s not just a case of who is playing well. It’s a case of looking at pairings and dynamics and energy and all of these things.”
If form were the main criteria, Wallace – on the back of what he has achieved in recent months – would be in. But, as Casey pointed out, it is more than that. It is up to Bjorn to go figure out the puzzle . . . . and whatever answer he provides in the Sky Sports studio come Wednesday, will be the right one. Even if it is wrong!