September 30, 2018 / 6:14 PM / 20 days ago

Bjorn's picks prove decisive as Furyk's flop

PARIS (Reuters) - There is not much a Ryder Cup captain can control once he has scribbled down his pairings and sent his men out into battle.

Sep 30, 2018; Paris, FRA; Europe captain Thomas Bjorn celebrates with the Ryder Cup after Sunday singles matches at Le Golf National. Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

When the dust settles on yet another fruitless American adventure trek over the Atlantic, however, Jim Furyk may reflect on the four calls he made when naming his captain’s picks.

Eight of his team, as with Thomas Bjorn’s European squad, qualified by right, through ranking lists.

But a third of the dozen men tasked with retaining the trophy and winning in Europe for the first time in 25 years were there because he decided they could make a difference.

In the final analysis of a 17.5-10.5 shellacking in the countryside south of Paris, the dire displays of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and, to a lesser extent rookie Bryson Dechambeau, will inevitably see the finger of blame pointed at Furyk.

Only one of his wildcards, Tony Finau, scored any points.

In stark contrast, the four picks Bjorn had up his sleeve weighed in with nine and a half.

Furyk’s side could lord it over Bjorn’s in terms of major trophies and world rankings. Nine of them were major champions compared to five Europeans.

But what the 48-year-old would have given to have been able to call on Bjorn’s Ryder Cup warriors Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey?

The 42-year-old Poulter, known simply as “Mr Ryder Cup” for his exploits in the event, produced another eye-bulging, fist-pumping singles display in Sunday’s climax — taking out world number one Dustin Johnson to take his Ryder Cup singles record to five wins and a half from six appearances.

As Poulter was roared down the 18th fairway, the 38-year-old Garcia was finishing off world number nine Rickie Fowler to become the highest Ryder Cup points scorer, surpassing the 25 of Nick Faldo. Some questioned Bjorn’s selection of Garcia for a ninth Ryder Cup after he missed every cut at this year’s majors.

Once again he proved the team’s heartbeat with three points.

Former British Open champion Stenson, 42, troubled by injury this year, crushed Bubba Watson while earlier in the day Casey, another 40 something, had halved with Brooks Koepka — a player who has won three of golf’s last seven majors.

“The four wildcards, when I saw the attitude they came in with, I thought we’ve got a chance here because they were in the right frame of mind,” Bjorn said.

“The attitude was unbelievable. It made life very easy for me to be honest.

“In the team room they bring the experience and the understanding because they’d done it so many times before. I’m extremely proud of those four guys. They stood up and showed what they are worth.”

Furyk’s picks made life anything but easy.

Despite a relatively poor Ryder Cup record, Furyk had little option but to select a rejuvenated Woods, a man with 14 majors.

That decision looked like a masterstroke when the 42-year-old won the Tour Championships last week, ending a five-year title drought. But whereas Poulter and Garcia brought energy, Woods looked jaded as he plodded to four defeats.

Mickelson’s form was so poor he was only used once before Sunday’s singles — a foursomes drubbing with Dechambeau. On Sunday he was outplayed by Italian Francesco Molinari.

Youngster Dechambeau partnered Mickelson and Woods to foursomes defeats and lost his singles but will surely come again.

Only Finau delivered, backing up his opening day fourballs win with Koepka to beat European man-of-the-moment Tommy Fleetwood in a singles match that proved academic.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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