When Sergio Garcia was awarded what many considered to be the fourth and final of Thomas Bjorn’s wildcard picks, few suspected that he would become the Ryder Cup’s all-time highest points scorer in Paris.
Yet a 2&1 win over Rickie Fowler in the singles was enough to take him beyond with Sir Nick Faldo’s record tally of 25 points.
What is more, it took him five fewer matches to overtake the record – 41 to Faldo’s 46.
With three points from four matches over the week, he could hardly have done more to justify his captain’s faith.
Bjorn, though, never had any doubts about the pick, offering the Spaniard his unwavering support both before and during the event.
“I have a lot of belief in Sergio,” Bjorn said. “He’s been fantastic in that team room. He’s been with all those new guys. He’s been talking. He’s been in a great, great frame of mind. He just does really well when he gets into this event.
“I’ve felt all along with him that if I made that phone call to him – that he was going to be in this team – then he would regroup his whole world.
“He went back to Spain for a couple weeks and worked really hard with his dad and he played in Portugal. I felt that having those conversations with him – he loves this event, he loves playing in it and he loves preparing for it, and if you gave him the right frame to do that, then he would come here and be able to play good golf. But also what he brings outside of the golf course is so crucial to a European Team. He really is that type of guy that binds it all together in the team room.”
When you look at the 38-year-old’s career record, it is easy to see why Bjorn was set on picking his man.
This is Garcia’s ninth Ryder Cup – he has played in every match since his 1999 debut as a teenager with the exception of Celtic Manor in 2010 – and in every single one of those matches he has contributed a minimum of two points to the European total.
In only one match, at Hazeltine two years ago, has he posted an overall losing record, and even then only just with a win and two halves from his five games in a losing cause.
It is in the pairs, and most specifically the foursomes where Garcia has truly excelled in the Ryder Cup.
Had he not pursued a career in golf, he could have been a professional footballer and armchair psychologists have long since concluded that team sports bring out the best in him.
Gone is the self-critical, self-flagellating introspection that can seemingly hinder his individual play, replaced by the kind of bounding, infectious displays of joy that we first saw at Brookline alongside Jesper Parnevik at the tender age of 19.
That was the first of several memorable partnerships. Next up was Lee Westwood at The Belfry in 2002. They won three out of four together before combining for two more fourball wins at Oakland Hills and a half in the foursomes at Valhalla in 2008.
With Luke Donald in 2004 and 2006 there were four successive foursomes wins.
Alongside Rory McIlroy, he has now won two and halved one of four games, while he won twice with Jose Maria Olazabal at the K Club and won one and halved one with Rafa Cabrera Bello at Hazeltine.
Even after Saturday afternoon’s foursomes defeat alongside Alex Noren, Garcia has only lost eight of his 32 games in the pairs format.
Or, to put it another way, the Americans need four matches to beat him once whenever he has a partner.
He leaves Le Golf National level with Bernhard Langer’s record tally of 11.5 points won in foursomes. And he has moved on to third place in the all-time fourball list, a point behind Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal’s record of 10.5.
In this match he has added a point in both formats – first alongside Noren in the Friday foursomes and then with Rory McIlroy in the opening game in the Saturday fourballs – as well as a point in the singles.
His record on Ryder Cup Sundays used to be poor – but it is now a decade since the the last time he lost a singles. He now has four wins a half from his nine individual matches.
“It means a lot,” said Garcia, reflecting on his new record. “But it’s about the team and I’m just happy I was able to help. I never thought I would have the possibility of doing this.”
Sergio Garcia in the Ryder Cup
Appearances: 9 (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
Overall record: P41 W22 H7 L11
Total points won: 25 1/2
Fourballs: P15 W8 H3 L4
Foursomes: P17 W10 H3 L4
Singles: P9 W4 H1 L4
Record by match: 1999 – 3.5 points from 5 matches; 2002 – 3 from 5; 2004 – 4.5 from 5; 2006 – 4 from 5; 2008 – 2 from 4; 2012 – 2 from 4; 2014 – 2.5 from 4; 2016 – 2 from 5; 2018 3 from 4