Wallace win adds to Bjorn’s Ryder Cup wildcard dilemma
● Play-off victory for Englishman ● Olesen secures last automatic spot
Thomas Bjorn, the European captain, said he already had “one little doubt in my head” about his four Ryder Cup wildcards before watching Englishman Matt Wallace throw a late spanner in the works by claiming a dramatic victory in the Made in Denmark event.
Bjorn expressed his delight as fellow Dane Thorbjorn Olesen secured the eighth and final automatic spot in the home team at Le Golf National in Paris later this month after Matt Fitzpatrick had to settle for a share of seventh spot when the Englishman needed a win at Silkeborg Golf Club in the last counting event.
Olesen joined Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory Mcilroy and Alex Noren in nailing down berths, leaving Bjorn to complete the 12-man line up from a list that got longer after Wallace claimed his third victory of the season on the European Tour.
Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters and, of course, Russell Knox are others in the frame for picks, which Bjorn, who was watching on at his home club as Wallace closed with five birdies in the last six holes before winning a four-man play-off with two more birdies, will announce on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m pretty set on two or three names, that’s for sure,” said Bjorn in an interview on Sky Sports before Wallace, who has now won four times in total on the circuit in less than two full seasons, added to victories in the Hero Indian Open and BMW International Open earlier in the year.
“There’s a bit of golf to watch from America over the next few days [the Dell Technologies Championship on the PGA Tour finishes on Monday] and a bit of discussion then we’ll see. But I’m pretty there in my head how I see this team being and how I want to try to mix and match everyone. But there’s still one little doubt in my head.”
That’s probably an out-ofform
Garcia and Wallace, having set out in the final round with the intention of trying to give Bjorn a headache, has certainly done that after digging deep when it really mattered. “That kind of shows who I am,” he declared after closing with a 67 for a 19-under-par 269 total then converting two almost identical putts from around six feet at the par-4 18th to come out on top in an all-english shoot-out against Steven Brown, Lee Westwood and Jonathan “Jigger” Thomson. Brown also birdied the first extra hole but couldn’t match Wallace second time around.
“My grit, my determination is what I am all about and to do it [winning the final counting event] is pretty special,” added Wallace, who admitted that it would mean “everything” to be on the team that will be trying to win back the Ryder Cup after a first defeat for Europe in four matches at Hazeltine in 2016.
Despite a brave effort by Fitzpatrick as he closed with a second successive 66, it was mission accomplished for Olesen, pictured, on home soil.
“It feels pretty good,” admitted the 28-year-old, who finished joint 20th after making the cut with nothing to spare. “I’m kind of relieved. It’s been a
pretty tough week due to feeling a different kind of pressure than you play under normally and I guess it’s nice it is over.”
Referring to Bjorn, he added: “We had a nice conversation after the round and I think we are both pretty relieved. It’s been an incredible summer. There’s been a lot of pressure but I’ve been playing well. It’s been a lot of fun.
“I think I’ve watched the Ryder Cup since I was six or seven years old. It is going to be a great team and hopefully we can bring the trophy back to Europe.”
Richie Ramsay was top Scot in joint 12th on 13 under, three ahead of Stephen Gallacher and four better than David Drysdale.
“I’m pretty set on two or three names, for sure, and how I want to try and mix and match everyone. But there’s still one little doubt in my head. ”