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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Thomas Bjorn opts for experience after revealing Ryder Cup wildcards

Garcia, last year's Masters champion, is struggling for form but has an impressive record in the bi-annual team tournament

Thomas Bjorn during the Ryder Cup Team Europe wildcard announcement in Isleworth, England. Getty Images
Thomas Bjorn during the Ryder Cup Team Europe wildcard announcement in Isleworth, England. Getty Images

Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia were handed the four wildcard picks to make the European Ryder Cup team on Wednesday, as captain Thomas Bjorn put his faith in experience.

England's Poulter, a talisman for Europe in past Ryder Cups, has returned to form this year after missing the 2016 defeat by the United States at Hazeltine.

All four picks have been part of multiple winning sides, although Spaniard Garcia has struggled this year, missing the cut at each of the last five major tournaments.

British Open champion Francesco Molinari, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, English trio Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen had already qualified automatically for the September 28-30 event to be held just outside Paris.

Bjorn opted for 2017 Masters champion Garcia ahead of Belgian Thomas Pieters, who won four points two years ago as a rookie, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Matt Wallace.

"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," said the Dane.

It will be the 38-year-old Garcia's ninth Ryder Cup appearance, having been the youngest man to play in the event's history as a 19-year-old in 1999.

Bjorn's announcement comes the day after USA captain Jim Furyk announced his own picks, with Tiger Woods the most notable inclusion.

Former world No 1 Woods had already been assured of a trip to Paris after being named as one of Furyk's non-playing vice-captains.

However, his form since his return this year prompted Furyk to award him one of the four captain's picks set aside for players who did not qualify automatically for the team.

Mickelson and DeChambeau filled the other two captain's picks announced by Furyk on Tuesday.

The US captain will announce his final place on the defending champions' team next week, with Tony Finau regarded as the front-runner for the position.

There had been little suspense surrounding Furyk's announcement on Tuesday. Woods, 42, will be playing in his eighth Ryder Cup and makes his first appearance since the 2012 event.

The 14-time major champion signalled his return to form last month with an electrifying second-place finish at the PGA Championship.

Mickelson meanwhile was regarded as a likely pick for what will be his 12th Ryder Cup appearance. The 48-year-old reminded Furyk of his quality with a dazzling eight-under-par 63 in the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship on Monday.

DeChambeau, 24, had virtually guaranteed himself one of the captain's picks after storming to victory in the opening two legs of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoff series, winning the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship.

The United States will be chasing their first Ryder Cup victory on European soil in 25 years when they face Europe at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines outside Paris.