Ryder Cup legend Sergio Garcia looks a key component for home side
Spaniard deserves full respect
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Sergio Garcia has finished 12th, eighth and seventh in his last three outings in mainland Europe, the Spaniard raising his game close to home, and his comfort level at Le Golf National this week seems likely to make the Ryder Cup legend a key component of the home side.
The eighth-place finish came in the French Open at the start of July on the same course on which he will face the United States, so Garcia can hit the ground running at Le Golf National. It is a tight, fiddly assignment which plays into the hands of crisp, consistent ball-strikers such as Garcia, who can go close to being the competition's top points scorer if Thomas Bjorn shows the necessary faith.
Bjorn has described Garcia as an 'integral' part of his team in the build-up in Paris, and it would come as a surprise if the Dane does not unleash his experienced wildcard selection on the opening morning.
The buzz of the Ryder Cup, a contest Garcia has been a part of eight times previously as a player, usually brings the best out of the Madrid man. He has won 22.5 points from 37 matches, his foursomes and fourballs records being particularly strong, so Bjorn will surely hand a heavy workload to this proven Cup performer.
Garcia closed with a 65 in the Portugal Masters last week, finding his A-game at a perfect time to be a force again against the old enemy, and he is surprisingly deep in the betting for both top European scorer and top combined scorer.
Garcia won the Masters last year, is a former world number two, and is a 14-time winner on the European Tour who has a further nine victories on the US Tour. He claimed a sixth Asian Tour title in January. The 38-year-old is a colossus of the sport who deserves full respect in this European team.
Bjorn seems likely to send Garcia and Jon Rahm into battle in the opening fourballs. The Ryder Cup veteran can guide the young rookie through his first start. This all-Spanish alliance should be devastating – Rahm has the heart of a bull and should revel in the atmosphere – and it will be tempting for the European skipper to keep the dynamic duo together if they perform well.
Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal are the most successful combination Europe has ever had, and over the next few editions of the Ryder Cup, Garcia and Rahm could develop a similar relationship. If Bjorn does decide to separate them for the foursomes, it is long odds-on that Rahm, less secure from tee to green, will be the one to step down. Garcia's foursomes record is immense and Francesco Molinari would be a potential partner in those sessions.
Garcia said in his press conference this week that he has nothing to prove – and he is quite right. His Stateside form has been poor, but on historical Ryder Cup achievements alone, he deserved his wildcard selection. He was more worthy of his pick than anyone else and can justify the backing of Bjorn by ending the week with a sizeable score.
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter could see plenty of action together this week and would be big dangers in the top-scorer markets if they click as they did at Medinah in 2012. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson seem likely to start together, but Stenson may not be fit enough to stay with his pal throughout. Rose could get lumbered with a weaker rookie for a session or two.
S Garcia top European
1pt each-way 12-1 general
S Garcia top combined scorer
1pt each-way 28-1 bet365
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