European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn chose experience over form in filling out the four remaining spots on his team Wednesday, adding Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia to a lineup that already included five rookies among the automatic qualifiers.
Three players Bjorn chose – Casey, Poulter and Stenson – were considered likely additions. It was Garcia who was the question mark given the sharp downturn in his form this year but Bjorn chose him over Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Matt Wallace, a three-time winner on the European Tour this year.
“Form is temporary, class is permanent,” is how Justin Rose viewed Bjorn’s decision to add Garcia, who has missed eight cuts in his last 11 starts on the PGA Tour.
Garcia has a career record of 19-11-7 in the Ryder Cup and his presence on the team trumped concerns about his performance this year.
“The one thing about Sergio is he’s the heartbeat of the team. I’ve always said that about him. It’s like a football team going without their captain,” Bjorn said.
If that’s true of Garcia, then Poulter is the team’s adrenaline. He’s 12-4-2 in his Ryder Cup career and he has thrived on the atmosphere.
“He is a man for the occasion,” Bjorn said of Poulter. “He really is just a special person that week. Both him and Sergio, sometimes you feel like they should have been footballers because they like that team sport so much, and that’s what they bring to a Ryder Cup team.”
Casey will be playing his first Ryder Cup in 10 years, having rejoined the European Tour in hopes of earning a spot on the squad that will face the Americans at Le Golf National near Paris later this month.
“The conversations we had, he’s really shown he missed this part of his life and he really wanted to get back,” Bjorn said. “With a win earlier this year, he’s really done well to get back in the game, and it really was a no-brainer for me to bring him back.”
As for Stenson, he and Rose have been a formidable partnership through the years and that’s likely to be renewed at Le Golf National. Stenson has been bothered by an elbow injury this year but Bjorn is satisfied it will not be an issue. The two talked through the summer and Stenson convinced Bjorn he should be on the team.
“As soon as we had those conversations and I knew where his focus was, I knew it wasn’t a big problem for me to pick him because I feel like he is — the stature that he brings, the calmness that he brings in the team room and the person he is, he’s great at looking after some of the youngsters. He’s just a very good guy to have around, and just a strong player,” Bjorn said.
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There will be five first-timers on Bjorn’s team – Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm and Alex Noren – which fed into his decision to go with experience in his captain’s picks.
“If I had written down 12 names before I started my captaincy journey, it wouldn’t have been far away from this,” Bjorn said.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 5, 2018