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By John Huggan
For all that the closing holes and four-man playoff won by Matt Wallace provided in terms of drama and excitement on Sunday at the Made in Denmark, for many the main focus of four days at Silkborg Ry Golf Club—European Ryder Cup skipper Thomas Bjorn’s home course—was the climax to the qualifying for team the Dane will take to Le Golf National just outside Paris later this month.
With seven automatic qualifiers for the European Ryder Cup team—Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm—already in place, Thorbjorn Olesen’s T-20 finish was enough to claim the eighth and final spot. Olesen’s only possible challengers, Matt Fitzpatrick (T-7) and Eddie Pepperell (T-56,) both came up short of the victory needed (given that Olesen finished lower than T-7) for one of them to be on the plane to France later this month.
“It feels great,” Olesen said. “And such a relief at the end of a tough week. It has been a different kind of pressure. It’s been an incredible summer. I’ve played well, and it has been a lot of fun. I’ve watched the Ryder Cup since I was 6 years old. It looks so special. But it will help me having Thomas as captain. I hope I can get a few points for him and Europe. We look like having a great team.”
Bjorn will name the last four members of Europe’s squad on Wednesday at 9 a.m. EST.
“Now I know eight, I have to think about four,” said Bjorn with a smile. “It has been good to see Thorbjorn make the team. He’s played some great golf over the summer and thoroughly deserves his place.
“The one thing I’ve said to all of the guys is that this is not just about making the team. Now it is about getting out there and winning points. It’s now about playing in the event. It’s about what happens at the end of September, not the end of August.”
Not quite yet though. With five rookies already in his line-up, it is likely that Bjorn will lean towards past Ryder Cup experience when completing his squad. It would certainly come as no surprise to hear that Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter will be three of his picks. Perhaps his biggest decision will be whether or not to omit the out-of-form Sergio Garcia in favor of one from, say, Irish Open champion Russell Knox, the ever-consistent Rafa Cabrera-Bello or, as was the case with Thomas Pieters two years ago, an in-form birdie-machine like Wallace.
Still, while he was understandably giving nothing specific away, Bjorn did provide some hints as to his thinking.
“There is always the not knowing what players will be like in the Ryder Cup,” he said. “You have to get a feeling of how they are going to react in that environment. It is different. But when you look at the rookies this time, individually they have all won big events. And now I have to balance out the team. I have a lot of thinking to do over the next few days. But I’m getting there in my head.
“I’m pretty set on two or three names. But there is some discussion to be had. I know how I want to mix and match the players. But there is one little doubt in my head. Whatever though, this is going to be an exciting team. So many new guys will bring that excitement. I’m looking forward to it. I hope we can do Europe proud.”