Europe captain Thomas Bjorn surprises with 4 rookies in Ryder Cup four-balls

David Cannon/Getty Images

Europe captain Thomas Bjorn surprises with 4 rookies in Ryder Cup four-balls

2018 Ryder Cup

Europe captain Thomas Bjorn surprises with 4 rookies in Ryder Cup four-balls

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Those who thought European captain Thomas Bjorn would start his bid to win back the Ryder Cup with tried-and-tested pairings got a slight shock when the Dane revealed his lineup for the opening four-balls session.

Veterans Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson sit on the bench with newcomer Alex Noren as Bjorn throws four of his five rookies into the fray, and a guy who hasn’t played a Ryder Cup in 10 years.

Bjorn is banking on learning from his Ryder Cup debut at Valderrama in 1997.

“When I played in my first Ryder Cup in 1997, I didn’t play until Saturday, and it was really, really difficult,” said Bjorn, who made his debut alongside Ian Woosnam in a 2-and-1 win over Brad Faxon and Justin Leonard. Woosnam dubbed Bjorn the “Great Dane” afterwards. Bjorn signed off his debut with a halve over Leonard in singles to help Europe win. Clearly he’s hoping his rookies follow his example.

As expected, FedEx Cup winner Justin Rose starts in the first four-ball match at Le Golf National but not alongside pal Henrik Stenson. They’re 4-2 as a pairing over the last two matches, but rookie Jon Rahm will partner with the Englishman.

Rory McIlroy was another expected starter, but he’ll chaperone rookie Thorbjorn Olesen. Paul Casey appears in his first match since 2008 alongside fellow Englishman and debutante Tyrrell Hatton.

Finally, Francesco Molinari takes Tommy Fleetwood under his wing. That pairing perhaps makes the most sense considering both have similar games. Expect both to put the ball in play off the tee and hit lots of greens.

Bjorn’s taking a gamble by getting as many rookies into action as quickly as possible. He obviously couldn’t get all five involved since that would have meant pairing two together.

“There’s obviously the obvious guys out there in the sense that people that you would all expect to be there, and then there’s a new guy in every group,” Bjorn said. “They have been just itching to go, especially Thorbjorn and Jon and Tyrrell. They are just really desperate to get out on that golf course. I wanted to get them out there.

“Tommy is a different guy in the way that he’s won around here (2017 French Open), and he’s been real quality for the last couple of years. He’s very calm and relaxed.

“I just really felt like this was what I saw. This is what we saw in the group of six of us (he and the five vice-captains), and when we sat down yesterday and today and went through it, you know, it very much came to us like this. We feel it gives us a lot of options, as well, going forward.”

As Bjorn learned as a vice captain two years ago at Hazeltine, the first session is huge in a Ryder Cup. Europe lost 4-0 and never recovered. He specifically mentioned the fear of getting whitewashed in the opening session. That hopefully won’t happen to him in Paris but, on paper at least, the respective U.S. pairings of Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, and Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods look much stronger.

Just as well, Ryder Cup matches aren’t played on paper. We’ll soon find out if Bjorn’s gamble pays off or costs Europe the Ryder Cup.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home