Bjorn opts for experience in Ryder Cup wild-card picks

Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey were selected Wednesday as Europe’s wild cards for the Ryder Cup, with captain Thomas Bjorn opting for experienced players to balance a team already containing five rookies.

The four picks have made 20 Ryder Cup appearances between them, and each has won at least 50 percent of their matches in golf‘s biggest team competition.

“You need people like that,” Bjorn said, “who have been there and done it, positively and negatively.”

Garcia, who will be making his ninth appearance, was called up by Bjorn despite a slump in form since winning the Masters last year for his first major title. He has only one top-10 finish since March but it came in the French Open at Le Golf National in Paris, where the Ryder Cup will take place from Sept. 28-30.

“He’s the heartbeat of the team,” Bjorn said after making the announcement in London. “It’s like a team going in without their captain.

“Not only is he a fantastic player, but what he also brings is he makes everyone around him better. He is what’s great about the European team room.”

The same could be said about Poulter, who is back for his sixth Ryder Cup after missing the 2016 edition that the Americans won at Hazeltine. The Englishman — nicknamed “Mr. Ryder Cup” by some — has lost only four of 18 Ryder Cup matches, is undefeated in singles, and was the inspiration behind the European team’s comeback from 10-6 behind to win in Medinah in 2012.

“It’s an extremely strong U.S. team,” Poulter said, “but when you look at the European team on paper, I am getting goosebumps just talking about it.”

The eight automatic qualifiers were Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren.

Five of them — Olesen, Rahm, Hatton, Fleetwood and Noren — are rookies and Bjorn was aware of the problems his predecessor as captain, Darren Clarke, encountered with six first-timers in his 2016 team.

Casey, ranked No. 16, is returning to the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008. After failing to earn a wild-card pick in 2010, he later gave up his European Tour membership, which barred him from playing in the Ryder Cup. He joined the tour again last year with the Ryder Cup in mind.

Stenson has been struggling with an elbow injury since just before the British Open in July and has broken 70 only three times in 20 attempts at Le Golf National, where he hasn’t played since 2012. It will be the Swede’s fifth Ryder Cup appearance.

Among the players overlooked for the captain’s picks was Matt Wallace, who won for the third time in 15 starts on the European Tour in front of Bjorn in the Made in Denmark event on Sunday. Wallace would have been a rookie.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 2016, finished just out of the automatic qualifying positions. His seventh place at the Dell Technologies Championship in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup would have lifted him into the automatic spots if the event had finished on Monday instead of Sunday.

The cut-off date for qualifying was Sunday.


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