Thomas Bjorn needs to tap experience with Ryder Cup captain’s picks

Aug 7, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Thomas Bjorn captain for the 2018 European Ryder Cup addresses the media during a press conference before Tuesdays practice round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Bjorn needs to tap experience with Ryder Cup captain’s picks

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Thomas Bjorn needs to tap experience with Ryder Cup captain’s picks

I’d love to see Matt Wallace, Eddie Pepperell or Russell Knox play for Europe in the Ryder Cup. But not this year.

Wallace, 28, is in pole position of those three for one of Thomas Bjorn’s four picks. An Englishman, Wallace has three wins this season, including the last counting event, the Made in Denmark tournament. He did it in style with birdies on five of the last six holes to get into a playoff, then birdies on the two playoff holes.

It’s the sort of grit and determination needed in a Ryder Cup. But if I was Bjorn, I wouldn’t pick Wallace for the same reason I wouldn’t pick Knox or Pepperell. Bjorn needs experience in his side. Not another rookie.

Five of Bjorn’s eight automatic selections are rookies – Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen. Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the only three with Ryder Cup experience. It’s hard to believe Bjorn will opt for another rookie when he makes his picks Sept. 5.

Bjorn was one of Darren Clarke’s vice-captains two years ago when the European team included six rookies in Matt Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett. Europe was no match for the United States. Ironically, Bjorn was also vice-captain in 2010 to Colin Montgomerie at Celtic Manor in Wales, when Europe won with six rookies. There’s a huge difference between now and eight years ago, though: This year’s U.S. Ryder Cup side will be far stronger than the one Corey Pavin took to Wales.

Moving on without Sergio

It leaves Bjorn with the positive problem of having to pick four from a group that includes the above three along with Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Pieters, Fitzpatrick and Cabrera Bello. Four of those players should get the nod because they have Ryder Cup experience.

Garcia is sure to miss out among the experienced players despite eight appearances in the last nine matches. The Spaniard’s had a poor season and is nowhere near Ryder Cup form.

Poulter is a lock after the season he’s had. He’s going to be an asset on the course and, maybe more importantly, in the team room. No European player since Seve Ballesteros has poured his heart into the biennial match the way Poulter has. Bjorn can’t not pick “Mr. Ryder Cup.”

Casey’s form has dropped off in recent months, but I’d make him one of my picks. He re-joined the European Tour purely because he wants to play in this year’s match. Bjorn played a part in cajoling him to come back into the fold because he wanted Casey on his team. It’s hard to see Bjorn not picking the gritty Brit.

Stenson gets my pick because he’s a ready-made partner for Justin Rose. They’re 4-2 as a combo, and Bjorn needs solid pairings with so many rookies on his team.

That leaves one from Pieters, Fitzpatrick and Cabrera Bello. Fitzpatrick’s tidy game is an asset in pairs golf, but he doesn’t have a great record at Le Golf National – he’s missed three of five cuts, which may hurt his chances.

That leaves a tossup between Pieters and Cabrera Bello. Cabrera Bello has had the better season without winning, while Pieters has come into some form recently with three top-10s in his last five starts. Both played well at Hazeltine, and Bjorn will be torn between the two.

“I’m pretty much there in my head in how I see this team being and how I want to try and mix and match everyone,” Bjorn told Sky Sports in Denmark. “But there’s still one little doubt in my head.”

Quite what that doubt is remains to be seen. Maybe it’s the doubt involved in picking another rookie. Gwk

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