'It's a shame for the young lads but you can't knock Bjorn's choices'

Opinion

Two-time Ryder Cup star David Howell has played on the same team as all four of Thomas Bjorn’s wildcards. He tells Dan Murphy why he backs the Dane’s decision to go with what he knows

David Howell played in two Ryder Cup-winning teams – at Oakland Hills in 2004 and the K Club two years later.

It says a lot about Thomas Bjorn’s four wildcard picks for Paris that each of them played with Howell on one or both occasions.

In fact, he partnered Paul Casey to a famous win against one Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell in the Saturday fourballs at Oakland Hills in his first match.

Two years later, he earned a half alongside Henrik Stenson in the Friday foursomes against Stewart Cink and David Toms before teaming up with Casey again the following day to thrash Cink and Zach Johnson 5&4.

Sergio Garcia was on both these teams while Ian Poulter was a fellow rookie in 2004.

“He’s gone for experience,” said Howell, now the European Tour’s tournament committee chairman as well as still an active player.

“It’s simple as that. Their stature is what’s swung it in their favour.

“These guys have been part of the basis of the team for the last however many matches.

Ryder Cup star David Howell

“Paul Casey has been playing so well for a couple of years now. Poults has showed great form this year and clearly has the Ryder Cup credentials.

“Stenson is just a class act. He’s been a stalwart of the last few teams. He is a big personality.

“It seems strange to say it, but Sergio is potentially the last one of the four. By his very high standards, his form has been poor this year.

“But I think being shown by Thomas that he has faith him in will help him to rise to the occasion. And he’s a massive bonus if he plays well.”

From the perspective of a former team-mate, Howell says it’s obvious that all bring a great deal to the team room as well as the course.

“Sergio has great passion. He just loves it. I assume that’s still the same now as it was 10 years ago. A good Sergio brings a lot of energy to the team.

“Poults is Mr Ryder Cup. He’s probably looking forward to it more than he was say in 2014 just because his game is in better shape. He’s such a positive character.

Ryder Cup star David Howell

“Stenson is a little different because he does his talking with his game. The Americans totally respect his character off the course and his play on it as a major champion and in the Ryder Cup.

“Paul Casey I obviously partnered – and I can’t talk highly enough about him as a partner. He was as strong as a rock. He’s a really strong Ryder Cup partner.”

Should all not go to plan in Paris, Howell acknowledges that Bjorn will be criticised for going with experience and ignoring the likes of Thomas Pieters, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Matt Wallace.

“He’s picked the four old guys – you could look at it like that. But when you look at their merits, you just want them all on the team – as long as they are in any kind of form.

“I think this is a really strong and experienced team. If it doesn’t work then Thomas will have to defend his choices.

“It’s a shame for the younger lads in a sense but you can’t really knock the way Thomas has gone about it.

“For a lot of these guys, who knows, it could be their swansong. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that the next team will look very different.

“And the next captain, or another captain, might look at it very differently too.

“I think Thomas took into account that there was plenty of new blood already in the team, of course, with the likes of Thorbjorn Olesen.

“Thomas has balanced that off with the experience of his picks.

“He chose that only eight players would be guaranteed a place – and that’s not very many – so he’s got the side he wanted.

“Now he just hopes they play well.”

David Howell on the wildcards’ likely partners

Henrik Stenson:

Rose is the obvious partner for him.

Ian Poulter:

I think Poults might have the role of chaperoning a rookie. I think that would suit him.

Paul Casey:

I think Casey could play with Rory. You want him to play freely and he would with Paul. He hits it almost as well and almost as far as Rory. I don’t see Rory putting his arms around an Olesen. I think you want him firing on all cylinders doing his thing. Paul’s game is so good that he could do that.

Sergio Garcia:

Well in some ways that’s the hardest one. But only because Sergio is an easy partner – he could go with anyone.

Ryder Cup star David Howell

More from the Ryder Cup

David Howell, who recently played in his 600th European Tour event, is an ambassador for Golfbreaks. Book your 2019 golf holiday before the Ryder Cup and you will save up to £400 and you could even receive a free Callaway driver.

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