Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Has Captain Bjorn Got it Right?

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has received a fair amount of criticism from the golfing pundits after naming his four wildcard picks for this year’s tournament. Form was said to be clinically overlooked in favour of experience as Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson joined up with those that had qualified from the European and World points list.

Bjorn has played it safe, but has he got his selection right?

No Weak Links


Tiger Woods by Keith Allison

One of Thomas Bjorn’s concerns would have arisen from the fact that reigning Ryder Cup champions the United States will go into this tournament with one of the strongest teams for many years. Even though they are conceding home advantage this time, comparison site Oddschecker shows that Jim Furyk’s squad are odds-on favourites to retain the title that they won two years ago and it’s easy to see why.

Among the roster is double 2018 Major winner Brooks Koepka and the current US Masters Champion Patrick Reed. Dustin Johnson, who has only just lost his World Number One ranking, also features as do Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson who has won three tournaments on the PGA Tour this season.

Tiger Woods is included as a Captain’s pick after a strong return from injury while Furyk, unlike Bjorn, has gone for form above reputation by including Tony Finau. It’s a formidable line up so what have Europe got to offer in return?

Pride of Spain

Sergio Garcia & Francesco Molinari by myphoto

The main media focus has been on Sergio Garcia who becomes the first man in the history of the Ryder Cup to line up in the tournament having missed the cut in all four preceding Majors. On the plus side, here is a man who was Masters Champion less than 18 months previously and across a long professional career, the 38-year-old has recorded no fewer than 33 tournament wins.

During this year’s competition, Garcia could also overtake Sir Nick Faldo to become the leading European points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup so we can, at least, empathise with Thomas Bjorn’s dilemma.

Adaptable


Ian Poulter by TourProGolfClubs

Paul Casey could only be seen as a contentious pick because the Englishman has committed to the PGA Tour for many years. He’s been consistent across the Atlantic and won the Valspar Championship earlier this season so there’s no real concern over form for a man who has appeared in three previous Ryder Cups.

Ian Poulter has also made a recovery of sorts in 2018 after he dropped out of the world’s Top 200. Victory at the Houston Open in April this year suggests that ‘Poults’ is back and he will undoubtedly prove his worth as the talisman who inspires the rest of the team.

That leaves 2016 British Open Champion Henrik Stenson where the concern is not over quality but whether the Swede is fully fit following a recent injury. Overall, the European wildcards are an experienced bunch and while form isn’t there in every case, the team will need that experience as they face what is arguably the best US side in the history of the competition.

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