Ryder Cup wildcard picks open the door for plenty of debate but that needn’t be the case.
I’ve caught myself getting into more than a few conversations about the Ryder Cup and, in particular, the choices facing both captains.
I’m amazed at how much thought, with a healthy dose of subjectivity, comes into play from fans and even foreign media. The principle should be simple enough … you choose the players who, you (read Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk) think will earn the most points come 28-30 September at Le Golf National.
For the US team, things couldn’t be easier: it’s Tiger Woods – his form in 2018 has him a sure thing; Phil Mickelson, his legend and antics around the team room plus his affinity for shining when it counts gets him; and Bryson DeChambeau, winner of the Northern Trust, 63 in round three at the Dell Technologies, a top amateur record and the fact that Tiger is super keen to play with him in any format.
Furyk’s side, who are defending after their first win since Valhalla Golf Club in 2008, can then be complemented by just about anyone because of the strength of their automatic qualifiers.
It’s more complicated for Thomas Bjorn, who could only watch as Matt Wallace threw a spanner, at least objectively, into his plans with a third win of the season – more than any other European Tour player.
Bjorn has pleaded with Paul Casey to adopt European Tour membership, so leaving him out would be a massive call. Sergio Garcia has failed to produce any sort of form this year but has plenty of experience – something that hamstrung the class of 2016 may have needed – and the self-belief from his half against Phil in 2016 and of course, that win at Augusta last April.
From the PGA Tour, you have Henrik Stenson, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Russell Knox to consider beyond Ian Poulter, almost surely getting in via a pick, and the already mentioned Casey and Garcia.
Then there’s the call to support those who support the European Tour – Eddie Pepperell and Matt Fitzpatrick, a 0-2 debutant at Hazeltine. Both missed out on automatic qualifying by not winning in Denmark. But that’s one hollow argument if you look at how these players use their home tour as a stepping stone for the USA.
Screen through all those names and you haven’t come across that of Thomas Pieters – one of the few to debut successfully in 2016 as he emerged as his side’s top scorer. He’s surely got to be on the team sheet?
You wouldn’t expect Wallace or Pepperell to not take up PGA Tour membership one day because they were handed a captain’s pick based on their form and loyalty.
I don’t subscribe to the call that suggests the first player to miss out on qualifying gets the list. The qualifiers take place over a long period and you either do enough to get in or you are back in the mix needing to add more characteristics to your game to get a captain’s pick. That kind of thinking could lead you to disappointment and criticism should your lucky loser not perform when the big time comes.
Bjorn, by all accounts, has done a tremendous job in the buildup to the 2018 Ryder Cup but his call – which will be made on Wednesday – could define his captaincy.
The great part of sport and, particularly, the Ryder Cup, is the emotion that plays out. Wednesday’s picks are likely to spark many angry tweets and shocked-face emojis on Whatsapp.
The thought-process for the captain’s pick should be simple: Who do you envisage will score the most points in golf’s most intense competition?
Good luck Thomas Bjorn, we’re watching with one eye on how well your picks perform.