LONDON, England – Sergio Garcia is the center of the European Ryder Cup team, according to Thomas Bjorn.
Europe’s captain defended his controversial decision to hand Garcia a wild-card pick along with Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson because the Spaniard brings an important intangible to the European team.
“I can’t pinpoint what a European Team room is. I can’t tell you exactly what it is that makes it great, but one thing I know is: Sergio’s right at the center of it – every single time,” Bjorn said. “He makes that team so much better. He’s the one that stands up on Thursday night and rallies the troops. He’s also the one that on Saturday night, when you’re four points ahead, goes, ‘OK, this is by no means won yet.’
“He’s been at the center of it in Brookline. He was at the center of it at Medinah. He was at the center of it last time. He knows the ups and downs of The Ryder Cup. Nobody knows it more in the European team than he does at this moment in time.”
Bjorn opted for the eight-time Ryder Cup veteran Garcia over in-form players Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace and Thomas Pieters despite a recent run of poor form that saw the 2017 Masters winner fail to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and miss seven of his last 12 cuts, including in all four majors this season.
“I felt like I had to go a long, long way to leave him out,” Bjorn said. “I wanted him there, and I needed somebody to do a Bryson DeChambeau for him not to be there.”
Wallace earned his third victory of the season at the Made in Denmark, the last counting event in the European qualifying process, but that wasn’t enough for the 28-year-old Englishman to make his Ryder Cup debut. Cabrera Bello just finished a run of seventh, 11th and 10th in his last three events, but missed out, too. Pieters has three top-10s in his last five starts, but didn’t warrant a pick. They were three of six players Bjorn called with bad news.
“People tend to go with just performance, and that’s so easy to measure,” Bjorn said. “(Padraig) Harrington puts it best. He always says, ‘It’s not about picking the best players. It’s about picking the best team.’ That’s what the picks are for.”
Garcia could have made the European team automatically if he’d played in and won the Made in Denmark. The Spaniard decided not to make the trip to Bjorn’s homeland. Instead he will play the Portugal Masters the week before the Ryder Cup to try to get his game in shape for Paris.
“I’m not 25 anymore,” Garcia said. “I’m 38 and I knew that I was putting my position at risk (by not playing in Denmark). At the same time, I told Thomas I want to get to the Ryder Cup 100 percent. My energy levels have to be up as high as they can be, because I don’t know how to play a Ryder Cup flat; and if I’m going to play a Ryder Cup flat, I might as well not play because I don’t feel like I’m going to help the team.”
Garcia needs to play well in Paris to help Europe win back Samuel Ryder’s coveted trophy, or Bjorn will be heavily criticized. No matter how the Spaniard performs in the team room.