Assessing Europe’s Wildcard picks: Why they will and won’t get the call-up to play at Le Golf National
Thomas Bjorn has a tough job on his hands before he names the four European Ryder Cup team Wildcard picks on Wednesday.
Thorbjorn Olesen was the final player to earn his spot on Europe's roster at the Made in Denmark on Sunday, joining Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Noren.
Matt Wallace pushed himself firmly on to Bjorn's radar with his third victory in of the season in Denmark, while Matt Fitzpatrick's 7th place finish wasn't enough to dislodge Olesen from the last qualifying place and left him among several players fighting for a Captain's pick.
So who will Bjorn choose?
One thing to consider is that in 2016 Europe took six rookies to Hazeltine, and while both Pieters (4 points) and Cabrera Bello (2.5 points) stood out as the first and third top point scorers, the other four collectively achieved 1 point during Europe's 17-11 defeat. There are already five on Bjorn's squad this year, although admittedly three of those five rookies are ranked inside the top 15 in the world.
It means the choice for the Captain is a mixture between form and experience, leaving him with four picks and nine possible players to choose from: Matt Wallace, Matt Fitzpatrick, Eddie Pepperell, Thomas Pieters, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Sergio Garcia.
"I'm pretty set on two or three names," Bjorn had told Sky Sports on Sunday before the end of the Dell Technologies.
But with several news outlets in the UK reporting Sergio Garcia is set to get the nod ahead of any rookies, it begs the question - if true - who else would make the team.
Here, we break down why each of these players could potentially get picked on Wednesday afternoon, and why they might be left at home.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 8 Appearances ('99, '02', '04, '06, '08, '12, '14', '16), Record: 19-11-7
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: T8 ('18)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 24th (European Points), 13th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: The most experienced European Ryder Cup player and third highest ever European point scorer, having played in eight editions and scoring 22.5points. He also finished T8 at Le Golf National earlier this year in his French Open debut. Plus, several news outlets suggesting he's already set to be picked.
Why he won't get picked: Hasn't been playing well consistently (7 missed cuts in 12 starts), missing all four cuts at the majors and failing to qualify for the PGA Tour's FedExCup play-offs for the first time despite a T24 at Wyndham Championship. Not playing in the Made in Denmark last week may have cost him.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: Rookie
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: MC ('18), MC ('17)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 13th (European Points), 16th (World Points)
Why he’ll get picked: A gutsy win at the Made in Denmark is his third victory on Tour since March, and he did it in style – birdieing five of his last six holes and then both playoff holes to come out on top and show he can pull it out of the bag when needed. Johan Edfors (2006) is the only player not to get picked with three wins in a season, and Wallace has been backed by plenty of fellow European Tour pro's.
Why he won’t get picked: Bjorn already has five rookies on the team, and Wallace has also missed the cut at Le Golf National twice in a row. Despite three victories in his last 15 starts, he also has seven missed cuts in that same span, which might cause concerns for consistency. That, and reports surfacing Garcia is set to get the pick ahead of rookies (like Wallace).
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 2016 (Record: 4-1-0)
➤ EurAsia Cup Record: 2018 (2-1-0)
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: T31 ('18), T13 ('17) T16 ('16), MC ('14), T29 ('13)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 20th (European Points), 24th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: On his Ryder Cup debut he was the top point scorer, winning 3/3 matches partnering Rory McIlroy and being just one of four European's to win their singles match. He's had a resurgence in form, posting three top 10s in his last five starts and not finishing worse than T40 since May.
Why he won't get picked: Had an inconsistent start to the year and has fallen down to World No. 60, which would make him the highest ranked player in the team. Also ended up 20th and 24th on European and World points list for Ryder Cup qualification, which may count against him.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 2016 (Record: 0-2-0)
➤ EurAsia Cup Experience: 2016, 2018 (Record: 3-2-1)
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: T27 ('18), MC ('17), MC ('16), MC ('15), T26 ('14)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 11th (European Points), 12th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: Put on a good showing to end up T7 at the Made in Denmark, which could be a turning point for him. He also has experience playing for Europe in both Ryder Cup and EurAsia Cup.
Why he won't get picked: Doesn't have the best matchplay record for Europe, failing to win a point in 2016. He also has a mixed record at Le Golf National and hasn't had the strongest season, which included three missed cuts in his previous six starts before his top 10 in Denmark.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: Rookie
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: T23 ('17), T45 ('16), WD ('15), MC ('14), MC ('13)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 10th (European Points), 14th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: A player in form, having won earlier this year and posted three top 10s in his last five starts, including T6 at The Open and T9 at the Czech Masters. Bjorn also played with him for three of his four rounds in Denmark.
Why he won't get picked: Bjorn already has five rookies on his team, and despite recent good form Pepperell likely won't have helped his quest for selection with a T56 at the Made in Denmark.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 2016 (2-0-1)
➤ EurAsia Cup Experience: 2018 (1-1-1)
➤ Last 5 Appearances at Le Golf National: MC ('18), 4 ('16), 5 ('15), T35 ('14), T29 ('13)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 12th (European Points), 10th (World Points)
Why he will get picked: Another stand-out rookie performer in the 2016 Ryder Cup, not losing a single point as he claimed 2.5points from 3 matches. He also has had two top 5s at Le Golf National and has four top 17s in his last four starts. Cabrera Bello decided to go to the Dell Technologies to make a statement to Bjorn, at one point sharing the lead on Monday before ultimately finishing T7.
Why he won't get picked: Form has been streaky lately, despite top 10 this week. He finished T10 and T11 back-to-back but also posted a T60 at the Northern Trust, a 74th at The Open and three missed cuts before that - including at Ryder Cup host venue Le Golf National.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 4 Appearances ('06, '08, '14, '16), Record: 7-7-2
➤ EurAsia Cup Experience: 2018 (2-1-0)
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: T7 ('12),
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 16th (European Points), 17th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: Another experienced Ryder Cup player, having played in both of the last two editions and being a regular partner for Justin Rose. Like Pieters and Cabera Bello, Stenson also played under Thomas Bjorn in the EurAsia Cup earlier this year so he knows what he brings to the team. Le Golf National is also a tight course, and Stenson ranks 1st on the PGA Tour for driving accuracy and greens in regulation - which could be a real asset.
Why he won't get picked: Stenson has slipped down the Ryder Cup rankings in his last few outings and was forced to WD twice with an injury which might cause Bjorn concern. Consistency may also be a factor: The Swede followed T6 at US Open with a T35 at The Open, T39 at WGC Bridgestone and MC at PGA Championship before T20 at Wyndham Championship and a disappointing T69 at the Dell Technologies.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 3 Ryder Cup Appearances ('04, '06, '08), Record: 3-2-4
➤ EurAsia Cup Experience: 2018 (2-1-0)
➤ Appearances at Le Golf National: T10 ('04)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 35th (European Points), 11th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: Bjorn convinced him to rejoin European Tour in a bid to make the squad after years of not trying, but he joined late - meaning last year's points didn't count for his total (and mean he likely might have made it if he'd joined the Tour earlier). 5 top 10s this year, in addition to claiming the Valspar Championship, and also performed well while playing EurAsia Cup under Bjorn's captaincy.
Why he won't get picked: Form looked to have dipped at the wrong time, finishing T60-MC in his previous two starts before a T21 last week.
➤ Ryder Cup Experience: 3 Ryder Cup Appearances ('04, '08, '10, '12, '14), Record: 12-4-2
➤ EurAsia Cup Experience: 2016 (3-1-0)
➤ Top 5 Appearances at Le Golf National: T14 ('04), T3 ('06), T9 ('07), 3 ('09), T4 ('12)
➤ Ryder Cup Points Race: 22nd (European Points), 9th (World Points)
Why he'll get picked: It's hard to think Ian 'The Postman' Poulter would get overlooked having only just missed out on the final qualifcation spot in World Points and being synonymous with Ryder Cups. He has 13 points from 5 Ryder Cup starts, ended his four year winless drought with victory at the Houston Open earlier this year, and has five other top 10s in 2018.
Why he won't get picked: Another player whose form might have dipped at the wrong time, having missed the cut at the Dell Technologies this week and finishing T48 the week prior at The Northern Trust.