Thomas Bjorn rounded out the 2018 European Ryder Cup team on Wednesday, opting for the experienced veterans on his radar rather than young blood. Bjorn picked Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia with his four wild-card selections for the Paris-bound team later this month.
In choosing these veterans, Bjorn went against the likes of three-time 2018 European Tour winner Matt Wallace, whose third win at the Made in Denmark happened right in front of Bjorn’s face as he came back from six down with seven to play to emerge winner from a four-man playoff. He looked past Eddie Pepperell, whose Open performance probably got him slightly in the Dane’s view. Perhaps most glaringly, Bjorn didn’t pick either Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who has played hot golf in the month of August and through the FedEx Cup playoffs, or Thomas Pieters, whose 4-1 record in an otherwise awful 2016 outing at Hazeltine National should have given him a head start on the other hopefuls.
In the end, Bjorn wanted guys who had done it before, and three of the four wild-card picks are verifiable legends in European Ryder Cup lore.
Poulter is Poulter, almost single-handedly raising Europe from the dead in 2012 in Chicago. This is his fourth captain’s pick, and he’s pretty much never failed in his role as American antagonist.
Stenson has formed one of the best duos in Ryder Cup history with Justin Rose, and the 42-year-old has been solid enough this year to merit the Everyone Gets One pick, kind of like Phil Mickelson got from American captain Jim Furyk. The Swede’s health has been of some concern, but a good showing in two of four majors was enough to land a nod.
Garcia is probably the most controversial given his precipitous fall in the Official World Golf Ranking in the year following his Masters breakthrough. Since getting to the knockout stages of the WGC Match Play, Garcia has missed seven cuts in 10 events with a cut. However, his all-time Ryder Cup record is sterling, and so he’s on the team.
Then there’s Paul Casey, who hadn’t been a European Tour member before this process began, scorned by Colin Montgomerie in 2010 while a top-five player in the world and having since looked to focus on his life in America and success on the PGA Tour. However, Casey was lured back with more reasonable membership requirements, changed by the European Tour precisely to inspire Casey to try to make the team again. He came up short on points, but his form was enough to merit a pick. This will be Casey’s fourth Ryder Cup and first since 2008.