Paris - European skipper Thomas Bjorn will entrust a handful
of Ryder Cup veterans, including the struggling Sergio Garcia, to accompany a
quintet of rookies into battle against a fearsome United States team in Paris.
Bjorn, the first Dane to qualify for the Ryder Cup as a
player in 1997, plumped for the vastly experienced Garcia and match-play
maestro Ian Poulter, as well as Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey with his wildcard
The four players have combined for a total of 20 Ryder Cup
appearances - double the number of Europe's eight automatic qualifiers which
include the likes of Rory McIlroy and top-ranked Justin Rose.
Francesco Molinari, this year's British Open champion,
closed out victory in the 'Miracle at Medinah' in 2012 but the rest of Bjorn's
charges are untested in the biennial showpiece.
Among the newcomers, Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood have
fond memories of Le Golf National as winners of the French Open the past two
years, while world number seven Jon Rahm adds to Spain's proud Ryder Cup
Tyrrell Hatton defended his Alfred Dunhill Links
Championship title before triumphing at the Italian Open last October to
effectively lock down his place, with Thorbjorn Olesen bagging the last
qualifying spot a fortnight ago on home soil.
It was the inclusion of Garcia that prompted the most debate
as the 38-year-old missed the cut at all four majors and produced just one
top-10 finish since April.
However, that came at this year's Ryder Cup venue, and the
2017 Masters champion's rich pedigree in an event he debuted in as a
19-year-old ultimately swung the pendulum in his favour.
"The one thing about Sergio is that he's the heartbeat
of the team. It's like a football team going without their captain, that's what
it's like for us," Bjorn said after revealing his captain's picks.
"All four bring loads of experience, points and know
how to win and lose and they will bring plenty of heart," he added.
Poulter, a talisman for Europe in past Ryder Cups, has
returned to form this year after missing the 2016 defeat at Hazeltine.
He had slipped outside the top 200 in the world at the start
of 2017, but reversed his slide with victory at the Houston Open in April.
"When he gets confident, he hits that European badge
hard," said Bjorn. "He is a man for the occasion and he is a special
Garcia, McIlroy, Rose and Stenson are the only holdovers
from the 17-11 defeat two years ago, while Casey, 41, returns to the fray
having last played at the 2008 edition.
Stenson has been hampered by an elbow injury, but the Swede
is expected to reprise his successful partnership from recent Ryder Cups with
"Stenson and Justin Rose love each other and you have
to look at how other players react to the players coming in," said Bjorn.
The US are sending a team comprised of nine major winners in
their quest for a first away win since 1993, with the resurgent Tiger Woods set
for his first Ryder Cup appearance since 2012 following his remarkable comeback
from spinal fusion surgery.
Yet both Woods and Phil Mickelson have losing records across
a combined 78 matches in the competition, and Fleetwood said Europe won't be
intimated by the opposition.
"Most of us guys on the European team play on the same
tournaments against Phil and Tiger week in, week out at the moment," the
Englishman said last week.
"You can't deny that they're the best golfers ever and
they always will be. But when you tee it up you're just playing another golfer,
it doesn't matter who it is."