Paul Lawrie says that Sergio Garcia’s influence within the European Ryder Cup team room is “phenomenal” and the Spaniard’s presence could give Thomas Bjorn’s team the necessary edge at Le Golf National in Paris this week.
Twice a European team member and a vice-captain last time around, Lawrie is recuperating from ankle surgery and not involved with the team or with the media in France, but he support’s Bjorn’s decision to make Garcia a wildcard pick despite his chronic lack of form leading up to the matches.
Garcia did have a stronger week in Portugal which suggests his poorest form is behind him, one that saw him miss the cut in all four majors in 2018.
“He’s proved time and again that he wins points and we all hope he does,” said Lawrie of the Spaniard. “He’s such a consistent player and his form has not been how he normally plays; missing the cuts in all the majors is not like him at all.
“I suppose it was a slightly controversial pick but Thomas and Sergio will have spoken and Sergio must have said he wasn’t playing as badly as his form suggests.
“But the Ryder Cup will bring the best out of him. There are not many players who can go to a Ryder Cup, out of form and produce it that week but I think Sergio is one.”
Lawrie has no doubts about the value of Garcia off the course, either.
“Sergio in the team room, that’s a thing to see. He’s phenomenal there,” said the Scot.
“Certainly he was the two I played in, even when he was young in 1999, and again in 2012 he was incredible in the team room.
“I think it’s a good pick, and I would have put him in. Sergio’s one of these guys who goes round the room and speaks to everyone and keeps everyone going.
“He’s good fun, he’s in the middle of all the mischief that goes on. He’s a livewire, he gets everyone up. I think he’s the best player Europe have in the team room.”
Lawrie thinks that the teams are “equally strong”, and gives Europe the edge.
“Both teams are really strong, and I think they’re pretty even. I heard someone say a few weeks ago that the average world ranking of each team is 12 – if that’s the case then it’s probably the closest the teams have ever been on paper.
“America are slight favourites probably, but only slightly. A lot of guys on the European team are winning – and having Justin Rose as world number one will be a big boost for everyone.
“I’ve always been a massive fan of Justin. He’s a great guy to spend time with, down to earth and someone who speaks to everybody. It’s great to see someone like that get to the top of the world rankings and it will help the rest of the guys to know they have the best player in the world on their team.
“I have Europe down to win it slightly, but it will be close.”
Bjorn and Lawrie have been on tour for a long time together, and the Scot knows the Dane well.
“He’s very clever, he’s been chairman of the tour’s tournament committee for years and you can’t take on that role if you are not a smart person. I think he’s brilliant in that role.
“When he’s playing, he’s like all of us and can be volatile at times. But when you put him a role where you have to be serious, he is brilliant and I think he will be a really good captain.
“He’ll have the respect of the players, which is hugely important. He’s been there, done it and won some big events. He’s a guy you can go to and speak to.
“No matter how good a job a captain does, he will always say the players are the most important people in a Ryder Cup and that’s right.
“It’s an important role, though, to get the harmony in the team, get everyone fighting together and having that desire in the room. But the players are by far the most important factor. They are the ones that are going to win it or lose it.”
Lawrie feels his own chance at the captaincy has probably gone – “the last three captains pick the next captain, and two of them didn’t have me as a vice-captain, so if that’s the way it is, so be it” – but he’s mostly concentrating on getting himself fit after surgery to solve a long-standing injury.
“The surgeon is happy with how it went, he repaired a ruptured tendon and there was another torn ligament there as well, and he sorted some bone spurs,” he continued.
“So the next two weeks I have my foot up and resting, and by the end of the year I should be hitting balls again.
“I’m not a great golf watcher on TV but the Ryder Cup is an exception. I’ll be in front of the TV for the first hits right through to the end.”