LONDON (Reuters) - Europe Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn loaded his team with experience when he named Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson as his four wildcards picks for this month’s match against the United States in Paris.
With five rookies having already booked their places automatically through the European and World Points standings, Denmark’s Bjorn opted to beef up his team with four players who boast 20 previous Ryder Cup appearances between them.
Spain’s Garcia, veteran of eight previous Ryder Cups and winner of 22.5 points, got the nod despite a dismal season in which he missed the cut in all four majors.
England’s Poulter, 42, is known as “Mr Ryder Cup” after his heroics at Medinah in 2012 and boasts an incredible record, losing just four of his 18 matches in his five previous appearances in the biennial event.
He sat out the 17-11 defeat at Hazeltine two years ago because of a foot injury that saw his ranking plummet and said he was already “getting goosebumps” at the thought of continuing his love affair with the event.
“This feels extra special. For Thomas to give me the call yesterday means absolutely everything,” he said.
World number 16 Casey returns after a 10-year absence while former Open champion Stenson has recovered from an elbow injury that nagged his mid-season and is another player slipper Bjorn will be able to depend on in the heat of battle.
There was disappointment for England’s Matt Wallace who pushed himself into contention with victory in last week’s Made in Denmark tournament in which he beat Ryder Cup vice-captain Lee Westwood in a playoff to claim his third title of the year.
Bjorn explained his decision to opt for experience.
“We’ve got five great rookies, but you need people who have been through it and done it all, positively and negatively,” Bjorn said after naming his captain’s picks.
Garcia will became the first man to play in the Ryder Cup after missing the cut in all four majors in the same year.
It would have been no surprise if he had been left out but Bjorn said the vibes Garcia brings to a team are indispensable.
“You’ve got to look at Sergio in certain ways. He’s the heartbeat of the team,” he said. “He makes everyone around him better. He is everything the European Ryder Cup is all about.”
Bjorn described Poulter as “the man for the occasion” and said he had spoken to him in the parking lot at Augusta National this year when Poulter vowed to play himself into the team.
The captain’s picks join Open champion Francesco Molinari of Italy, Britain’s Olympic champion Justin Rose and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy plus rookies Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Spain’s Jon Rahm, Swede Alex Noren and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen.
Europe’s domination of the match was snapped at Hazeltine where the U.S. ran out comfortable winners, their first victory since 2008. The U.S. have not won on European soil since 1993.
American skipper Jim Furyk already has 11 of his 12 players, with experienced duo Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson added to his lineup when he announced his wildcards on Tuesday.
Furyk has a formidable array of talent at his disposal with only two of his players not having a major to their name.
He will announce his last wildcard on Monday.
The 42nd Ryder Cup takes place at Le Golf National in Paris from Sept. 28-30.
Europe team: Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris