Has European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn made the same mistake by selecting Sergio Garcia as a wild card pick that Darren Clarke made with Lee Westwood two years ago at Hazeltine?
That was the most pertinent question after Bjorn picked the 2017 Masters winner along with Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to fill out his team to face the U.S. at Le Golf National in Paris later this month. The quartet joins automatic selections Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose.
Bjorn opted for the vastly-experienced-but-out-of-form Ryder Cup veteran over in-form players Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters and Matt Wallace.
Cabrera Bello finished T-7 in the Dell Technologies Championship, T-11 in the Wyndham Championship and T-10 in the PGA Championship. He is one place higher than Garcia on the Official World Golf Ranking, 29th to Garcia’s 30th.
Wallace will feel aggrieved since he won the final European qualifying tournament, the Made in Denmark. Wallace birdied seven of his last eight holes to win the championship, his third victory of the season. Pieters has also shown a return to form recently, with three top-10s in his last five starts.
Garcia didn’t make the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He’s missed seven cuts since the Masters, including three in his last five starts. He did place eighth in this year’s French Open, his first experience of the Ryder Cup course.
The Dane will hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Clarke two years ago when he picked Westwood based on experience, only for Westwood to go 0-3 in his 10th Ryder Cup.
Garcia assumes Westwood’s mantle this time around as the most experienced player in Bjorn’s side. The 38-year-old is making his ninth appearance in the biennial match. His record in the contest is 19-11-7.
Garcia’s selection was helped by Bjorn having five rookies in his team. Selecting Wallace would have made it six.
Both Cabrera Bello and Pieters played well two years ago in their Ryder Cup debuts. The Spaniard, who has two top-5s in his last three starts at Le Golf National, won two-and-a-half points out of three, while Pieters went 4-1.
Bjorn has taken a huge gamble on Garcia, one that could hinder Europe’s chances of winning the Ryder Cup.
Closer look at the picks
Experience: 3 appearances
Best Le Golf National finish: 10th (2004)
Re-joined the European Tour specifically to play in this year’s match, a decision Bjorn influenced. Casey hasn’t played in the biennial competition since 2008, when Europe lost at Valhalla. He was a winner in 2004 and 2006. Look for him to pair with either Fleetwood or Hatton. He paired successfully with both in the EurAsia Cup.
Experience: 8 appearances
Best Le Golf National finish: 4th (2018)
Most experienced player in the European team, but he’s had a mediocre season by his standards. Bjorn will hope Garcia strikes up a good partnership with Rahm, just as he did with Cabrera Bello two years ago.
Experience: 5 appearances
Best Le Golf National finish: 3rd (2006, 2009)
Mr. Ryder Cup makes return to side after missing Hazeltine two years ago. Brings almost as much passion to the match as Seve Ballesteros once did. Will be a huge influence in the team room on the Euro rookies.
Experience: 4 appearances
Best Le Golf National finish: 7th (2012)
Has appeared on two winning European teams (2006 and 2014). Has enjoyed a 4-2 record in pairs golf with Justin Rose, and Bjorn will look to hook these two up again in Paris.