CAPE TOWN – Captain Thomas Bjorn has taken loads of stick on social media for opting for Sergio Garcia as one of his four wildcard picks in Europe’s team for the Ryder Cup, now that the 12-man line-up has been finalised.
Garcia, last year’s Masters champion, has missed a bunch of cuts this year, including all four Majors and one fellow suggested he wouldn’t have the Spaniard, who has been playing such “rubbish”, on his own club team, never mind the Ryder Cup’s.
Another comment: It’s a “bloody disgrace” that Garcia gets the nod ahead of feisty, mentally tough Englishman Matt Wallace, who has been described as the next Ian Poulter and has won three times on the European Tour this year, most recently in the Made in Denmark tournament where he birdied seven of his last eight holes.
Bjorn will have nothing of this. He reckons Garcia’s superb past Ryder Cup record speaks for itself: “Sergio is the heartbeat of the team. Without him it’s like a football team going without their captain. He makes everybody around him better. He is everything that the European Ryder Cup team is about.”
I side with Thomas. The Cup is very much about team spirit and, of course, it is match play golf not stroke play - two very different formats. Players like Garcia and Poulter get that look in their eyes and thrive when it’s one-on-one.
And you can bet your new Titleist the Americans in this year’s big match at Le Golf National in Paris from September 28-30 would rather face a rookie like Wallace than an old hand like Garcia.
Bjorn’s other wild card picks are Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and the ball of fire that is 42-year-old Poulter who has helped Europe win the biennial showpiece four times, but was injured and missed the 17-11 defeat in 2016.
“When he gets confident (and when doesn’t ‘Poults’ get confident in the heat of the Cup?), he hits that European badge hard. He is a man for the occasion,” said Bjorn of the man dubbed ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ because of his heroics in the event. Poulter’s response: “I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Personally, I’m also getting goosebumps. Like many golf fans - even if not American or European - I love the Ryder Cup. This year’s contest has that intriguing aspect to it - an old duo that between them have been on this planet for 90 long years. Yep, a resurgent Tiger’s back in the team at 42 and Phil, at the ripe old age of 48 but with the silky touch still very much present, will make a record 12th appearance.
“Our boy” Justin Rose - okay he’s English, but he was born in Johannesburg - has just gone to world No 1 and heads up a strong Europe. Then again, the American side isn’t just half bad. It should be a damn good one.
Since that defeat in 1993, Europe have won eight of the 11 Ryder Cups held since. Put an awful lot of that success down to team spirit. Over to you, Sergio.