Who would be your Ryder Cup wildcard picks?
With Thorbjorn Olesen grabbing that last automatic spot at the Made in Denmark and Matt Wallace winning his third tournament of the year, European captain Thomas Bjorn now has quite the decision for his Ryder Cup wildcard picks. Here is who our team of writers would take to Paris…
Ian Poulter: The Postman failed to deliver an automatic qualifying spot – but only just. He gets one more crack at it then make him captain for the rest of time.
Henrik Stenson: If he can prove he’s fit, then he’s on the plane. He’s too important to our team.
Thomas Pieters: His form has hardly been woeful since the last Ryder Cup and he was such an integral part of the team at Hazeltine that Bjorn would be foolish to overlook him.
Matt Wallace: Bjorn constantly reminds us he wants to take form players – so how do you leave out a man who has won three times this year and four times since May 2017? Answer: You don’t.
Henrik Stenson: Yes, the rookies are all great players and so on but they are still debutants and the Ryder Cup is a different beast to even a major championship. Henrik’s had a better season than people think and I want a cool experienced head in my team room.
Ian Poulter: He deserves another crack at the Americans. Having risen, Phoenix-like, from the ashes he has won on the PGA Tour and generally been consistent for much of the season. If I’m one of Jim Furyk’s men, he is a person I don’t want to meet in Paris.
Thomas Pieters: I’d really like to pick Sergio Garcia but, if Bjorn is insistent on taking players who are in form, then the Spaniard will have to stay on the sidelines. Pieters, meanwhile, was a titan at Hazeltine and has run into form at the right time.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: Impressive at Hazeltine, Rafa’s decent run at the PGA Championship and the Wyndham gives him the nod for me over Paul Casey.
Henrik Stenson: He and Justin Rose might be one of our greatest ever pairings so he’s a certainty to get the nod. There is also the fact that he remains one of the best players in the world and is brilliant for team morale.
Ian Poulter: People seem to wonder if this is one Ryder Cup too far, it isn’t. He was injured in Gleneagles so let’s overlook that and doff our visors to the amazing manner in which he has got his career going again. It will be magic to have him back in the team.
Sergio Garcia: Yes, yes he’s not playing very well but try telling me that Sergio Garcia, at a Ryder Cup, surrounded by his team-mates, with 50,000 cheering him on, isn’t going to put the spring back in his step. Have a look at his foursomes record and then just nod your head.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: I reckon this is a toss up now between him and Paul Casey and, given that he’s got some nice course form down the years and was great with Garcia, he’ll be one of the lucky four. Vastly underrated as a player.
Ian Poulter: None of the Americans will look forward to playing him.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: Another who has been there or thereabouts over the past couple of years. Thought he brought a lot of energy to the team in 2016 and has a couple of obvious partners.
Sergio Garcia: We’re a bit short on major winners and I think he’s the sort of big name we can’t afford to leave out. It will boost some of our younger players to have him in the locker room.
Henrik Stenson: See above. If he’s 100% fit then he has to play. He’s leading the PGA Tour stats for driving (3-wood) accuracy and gives Bjorn plenty of options.
Henrik Stenson: You can’t contemplate going into this match without the Swede though his recent injury problems are a concern. I think he is likely to team up with Noren in what looks like a strong Scandinavian pairing.
Ian Poulter: I am not picking him on memory – we made that mistake at Gleneagles four years ago when The Postman was peripheral. Give Poulter due credit – he has clawed his way back from the brink and fully deserves this pick.
Thomas Pieters: We should be building our team around the likes of Pieters, which made his loss of form in 2018 a real problem. A month ago he was virtually unpickable but he has done enough to remind us of his manifest talents. The fact he has an established partner in Rory is hugely in his favour. This is also a pick for the long term.
Paul Casey: It’s a toss-up between him and Sergio Garcia but Casey’s golf over the last six months means that he gets the nod. It would be nice if he had shown his now trademark consistency in recent events but he has has played enough world-class golf in the last couple of years to get this last pick. It’s harsh on Garcia but there’s no room for sentiment.
The NCG verdict
Our team of writers believe Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter are locks, with all five picking the Ryder Cup stalwarts, with Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello making up the picks with three votes each.
Sergio Garcia, with just two votes, misses out, as do Paul Casey and Matt Wallace, with one vote each.
Who will Bjorn pick as his wildcards?
Alex: Garcia, Poulter, Casey and Stenson. He said he’d only pick players on form but can you see him leaving any of these four out? I can’t.
Steve: Garcia, Poulter, Casey and Stenson. All the signs are that he will pick Garcia, while Poulter should be a lock having nearly qualified automatically. I can’t believe Casey has come back to the European Tour fold simply to be left out again – like in 2010 – and the captain that doesn’t pick Stenson is a very courageous one indeed.
Mark: Garcia, Poulter, Stenson and Cabrera Bello. Looks like Casey will be unlucky once again with Garcia the fortunate one. Then we’ll all be chuffed with the captain the Spaniards win both their foursomes matches. It depends what he has planned for Rory McIlroy to help Pieters’ chances – but I suspect he’s already got someone else lined up for him.
James: Garcia, Poulter, Stenson and Cabrera Bello. I think Bjorn will go for experience and give himself options for pairings. No one outside the qualifiers has made themselves undroppable.
Dan: Garcia, Poulter, Casey and Stenson. I don’t think Ryder Cup captains, who generally get one chance and one chance only, are too concerned with succession planning. As such, Bjorn is all about the here and now and I think he will find it hard not to pick these four experienced men.