Jim Furyk’s decision to name Tony Finau as his fourth and final wild card on Monday means both the United States and European teams for the Ryder Cup are now complete.
Here, Press Association Sport compares the sides ahead of their showdown at Le Golf National in Paris later this month.
Justin Rose’s runner-up finish at the BMW Championship on Monday saw the Englishman become world number one for the first time in his career. However, that is where the good news ends for Europe captain Thomas Bjorn. Americans occupy six of the top 10 positions and, although Europe hold the other four, the hosts also have four players ranked below the lowest US player Phil Mickelson, who sits 25th. The average ranking for Furyk’s side is 11.75, with Europe’s 18.5.
Verdict: Advantage USA
America were already 12-6 ahead after both teams’ eight automatic qualifiers were confirmed, but while Bjorn was able to boost Europe’s tally to eight by picking Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, Furyk could call on the 19 major victories of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The US lead the category 31-8, have won three of 2018’s four majors – Francesco Molinari’s Open triumph bucking the trend – and 12 of the last 17 have been won by Americans.
Verdict: Comprehensive USA victory
Ryder Cup Record
Justin Thomas, Finau and Bryson DeChambeau are the only rookies on the US team, while Bjorn has five in his ranks with Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen all qualifying for the first time. However, of the seven Europeans with Ryder Cup experience, only Molinari averages less than half a point per match. America’s team have 139 matches of Ryder Cup experience to Europe’s 124, but much of it is negative, with Europe having collected 72.5 points to the 67 of the US, for whom Woods and Mickelson are among five players with losing records.
Verdict: Advantage Europe
Form this year
On the face of it there is not much between the two sides, with the Americans having racked up 15 global victories in 2018 to Europe’s 13. However, Furyk probably has more to worry about than Bjorn on this front, with Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed’s form tailing off in recent weeks. And while US rookie DeChambeau cannot stop winning, Rose’s rise and the consistency of Molinari is a boost for Bjorn, whose main concern will be Sergio Garcia’s recent slump.
Verdict: All square
Only three of America’s 12 players have played a competitive round at Le Golf National, and Thomas’ tie for eighth at this year’s Open de France is the only positive in this category for Furyk. Koepka missed the cut on his only appearance in 2013 and Watson not only went home after two rounds in 2011, but also offended the locals by complaining about the behaviour of spectators and referring to the Eiffel Tower as “the big tower” and the Arc de Triomphe as “an arch, whatever I rode around in a circle” during a press conference. Hatton is the only member of the European Tour not to record a top-10 finish at the Versailles venue, where Noren and Fleetwood have won in the last two years.
Verdict: Comprehensive Europe victory
Sergio Garcia has insisted he was right to jeopardise his Ryder Cup selection by missing the Made In Denmark tournament.
Captain Thomas Bjorn named Garcia as one of his four European team wildcard picks on Wednesday, completing the 12-strong line-up to face America in Paris from September 28-30.
Revealing his delight and relief at joining Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson as Europe’s wildcards, Garcia defended his decision to snub a chance for automatic qualification by sitting out the August 30 to September 2 Denmark tournament.
The Spaniard believes he will arrive in Paris rested and ready to lock horns with the Americans in a way he would not have been able to had he shouldered more tournament golf in the build-up.
“Unfortunately because of how the year went I had to play five weeks in a row in the summer, eight weeks out of 10 – and I’m not 25 any more, I’m 38,” said Garcia.
“I knew I was putting my position at risk, but at the same time I told Thomas I want to get to the Ryder Cup at 100 per cent.
“I don’t know how to play a Ryder Cup flat, and if I’m going to play a Ryder Cup flat I’m not going to help the team.
“I need to rest for two weeks then play a little bit before that and get to Paris with the best chance possible.
“He understood obviously, it didn’t make sense for me to play Denmark.
“Unfortunately things didn’t work out the way I would have loved, I had to make some hard decisions, but we’re here now and able to focus on bringing as much as possible to the team.
“To be able to be a part of a Ryder Cup team, it’s amazing, so I’m very proud; very thankful for being picked.
“I’m thrilled and now want to help my team again to make sure we have the best possibility of winning the Ryder Cup back.”
Garcia is the first European to win Ryder Cup selection having missed the cut at all four Majors in the season.
Fellow wildcard pick Poulter backed Bjorn’s selection however, insisting: “If you look at the highlights of what Sergio has brought to the European Ryder Cup team through the years, that’s why he was obviously picked to join the team.
“Incredible amounts of experience, a lot of points, an incredible amount of passion to the team.
“It’s hard to explain to the rookies how they are going to feel and how big a stage the Ryder Cup really is. You definitely need guys like Sergio in the team who can help these guys to be able to feel comfortable.”
Delighting in being back in the Ryder Cup team having acted as a vice-captain in defeat two years ago, Poulter said he is hungry for further success against America.
“It’s really motivated me hugely; being vice captain last time was difficult,” said Poulter.
“I enjoyed it just to be part of a Ryder Cup team still, that was pretty special.
“But to be 200 in the world and looking at the Ryder Cup from afar, it was pretty motivating to get my game back in shape, play with some passion and reignite the fire to get back into this Ryder Cup team.
“It’s been an amazing journey the last two years and one I’ve been very proud of to get back into this team.”
Tiger Woods admitted he never imagined being in contention in consecutive majors after threatening to pull off one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time in the US PGA Championship.
Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery in April last year and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence the following month when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car.
The 42-year-old, who had five prescription drugs in his system, later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and will spend a year on probation and undergo a diversion programme.
Woods only returned to competitive golf in November but held a one-shot lead with eight holes to play in the Open at Carnoustie and finished just two behind Brooks Koepka after a thrilling final round of 64 at Bellerive Country Club.
“I was in contention in the last two majors and would never have foreseen that a year ago and I’m just so thankful to be here,” Woods said.
“I didn’t know what my schedule would be. I didn’t know how many tournaments I would play this year, or if I would even play. So each tournament brought about its own challenges.
“At the beginning of the year if you would say I would have a legit chance to win the last two major championships, I’d say with what swing? I didn’t have a swing at the time. I had no speed. My putting was OK but God, I hadn’t played in two years. So it’s been a hell of a process for sure.”
Woods began the final round four shots behind Koepka and closed to within a shot three times, but Koepka crucially birdied the 15th and 16th before a wayward drive on the par-five 17th cost Woods the chance of a birdie himself.
“I was pretty ticked at the British Open,” Woods added. “I had the lead there. This one I never quite got to the lead. I was always trailing. I had to keep making birdies. I had to go get it and I tried.
“The drive on 17… I didn’t drive it good all day. I was struggling with my golf swing. I warmed up hitting it left, I was hitting it right. So I knew this was going to be a struggle to try and piece together around and I did.”