Crunch time for Bjorn’s Ryder Cup selections

Europe's Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Ian Poulter and Matthew Fitzpatrick at Hazeltine two years ago. They are all vying for a captain's pick for the match in France later this month (Picture: PA)
Europe's Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Ian Poulter and Matthew Fitzpatrick at Hazeltine two years ago. They are all vying for a captain's pick for the match in France later this month (Picture: PA)
0
Have your say

Thomas Bjorn faces the first tough decision of his Ryder Cup captaincy as he prepares to name his four wild cards for the contest with the United States in France later this month.

And the Dane could have as many as 10 names in mind as he looks to finalise a Europe team which will seek to regain the trophy at Le Golf National in Paris from September 28-30.

Bryson DeChambeau won for the second week in a row on Monday (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Bryson DeChambeau won for the second week in a row on Monday (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Experienced campaigners Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey all failed to qualify automatically, as did the likes of Thomas Pieters, Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick and Rafa Cabrera Bello, who made their debuts in the defeat at Hazeltine in 2016. Also in the frame are Scotland’s Russell Knox and the English pair of Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell, with Wallace pushing his claims by winning for the third time in 15 starts in front of Bjorn in the Made in Denmark event on Sunday.

Speaking while Wallace was in the process of carding five birdies in the final six holes before winning a four-man play-off with two more birdies, Bjorn revealed he had one major decision to make.

“I’m pretty set on two or three names and then we’ve still got a bit of discussion to do and a bit of golf to watch from America over the next few days and then we’ll see,” said Bjorn.

“I’m pretty much there in my head in how I see this team being and how I want to try and mix and match everyone.

File photo dated 22-05-2018 of 2018 European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday September 4, 2018. Thomas Bjorn faces the first tough decision of his Ryder Cup captaincy as he prepares to name his four wild cards for the contest with the United States. See PA story GOLF Ryder. Photo credit should read Adam Davy/PA Wire

File photo dated 22-05-2018 of 2018 European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday September 4, 2018. Thomas Bjorn faces the first tough decision of his Ryder Cup captaincy as he prepares to name his four wild cards for the contest with the United States. See PA story GOLF Ryder. Photo credit should read Adam Davy/PA Wire

“But there’s still one little doubt in my head.”

The golf in America to which Bjorn made reference was the conclusion of the second FedEx Cup play-off event on Monday, where Cabrera Bello briefly held the lead in the final round before finishing tied seventh.

In the Spaniard’s favour is the fact that he won two-and-a-half points from three matches at Hazeltine and has also recorded two top-five finishes in the French Open at Le Golf National.

“I hope I wasn’t the one who he was doubting about,” said Cabrera Bello on Monday night.

“I’ve done everything I can. I love Ryder Cup. It would be a huge honor to represent my continent again. And I would be 100 per cent availabe if he needs me.

“I do understand it’s a difficult pick because there are lots of good players outside. But I feel like even in my best chance, if he was trying to see if I was in form or not, I think this week proves that I am.”

Knox was second in the French Open this year and won in Ireland the following week, while Garcia’s tie for eighth in the same event – after a third round of 64 – is his best finish since March.

Stenson has recorded six top 10s this season and missed just two cuts, although the former Open champion has been struggling with an elbow injury.

Casey and Poulter both ended long winning droughts on the PGA Tour this season and look strong favourites for a wild card, while Pieters has compiled three top 10s in his last five starts, including the US PGA.

Pieters won a record four points at Hazeltine and formed an unbeaten partnership with Rory McIlroy, who was one of the eight automatic qualifiers alongside Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren.

And with those last five players all Ryder Cup rookies, Bjorn could be forgiven for preferring experience over potential or current form when he makes his selection.

In-form Bryson DeChambeau left Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk in no doubt he will be a valuable wild card for the US team after a second successive victory in the FedEx Cup series on Monday night.

The 24-year-old was last night confirmed in Furyk’s first three picks for Paris later this month after his two-shot victory at the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston made it back-to-back wins.

Rose finished second as Hatton went backwards.

DeChambeau was joined as a Ryder Cup wild card by Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods with Furyk scheduled to make his final wild card selection next week.