Bjorn get­ting his shot at Team Europe helm

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Thomas Bjorn was ap­pointed cap­tain of Europe’s 2018 Ry­der Cup team on Tues­day — a re­ward for his long and suc­cess­ful as­so­ci­a­tion with the event as a player and vice-cap­tain as well as his com­mit­ment to the Euro­pean Tour.

The 45-year-old Dane is the first Scan­di­na­vian to lead the Euro­pean team, which will look to re­gain the cup at Le Golf Na­tional in Paris in 2018 af­ter its 17-11 loss to the United States at Hazel­tine in Oc­to­ber.

“I have lived and breathed the Euro­pean Tour for so long, and now I will do the same with the Ry­der Cup for the next two years,” Bjorn said.

Bjorn is held in high re­gard in Euro­pean golf, hav­ing rep­re­sented play­ers’ in­ter­ests in his role as chair­man of the tour’s Tour­na­ment Com­mit­tee since 2007.

He has also won 17 ti­tles world­wide since turn­ing pro­fes­sional in 1993, in­clud­ing tak­ing down Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Clas­sic in 2001 when Woods was at the height of his game.

The Ry­der Cup is close to Bjorn’s heart, hav­ing be­ing on the win­ning side in all three of his ap­pear­ances as a player — in 1997, 2002 and 2014 — and three out of four times as a vice-cap­tain.

His only loss was un­der Dar­ren Clarke at Hazel­tine.

“I saw first-hand what he was like as a vice-cap­tain in 2010, and he was ex­cep­tional,” said Colin Mont­gomerie, who led the Euro­pean team to vic­tory that year.

“I used him pos­si­bly more than any other vice-cap­tain at Celtic Manor. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and I think that’s im­por­tant for the role.”

Mont­gomerie spoke of Bjorn’s “com­bustible and fiery na­ture,” qual­i­ties that might in­spire Europe’s play­ers in the heat of Ry­der Cup week.

But serv­ing as an assistant un­der four cap­tains — Bern­hard Langer in 2004, Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal in 2012, as well as Mont­gomerie and Clarke — has given him valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence re­gard­ing the cal­cu­lated de­ci­sions re­quired from a team leader.

Clarke and Olaz­a­bal were on the five-man panel that se­lected the 2018 cap­tain.

“I stud­ied a lot of cap­tains as a player and as a vice-cap­tain and al­ways won­dered what that feel­ing would be like to be the one lead­ing out a team of 12 great play­ers,” Bjorn said. “Now it’s my turn to do just that.”

The Ry­der Cup re­turns to main­land Europe for the first time since the 1997 match at Valder­rama.

Bjorn knows Le Golf Na­tional well, hav­ing played the French Open there on 14 oc­ca­sions, fin­ish­ing third in 2007.

Europe has won the Ry­der Cup the past five times it has been staged on Euro­pean soil.

Bjorn will be only the fourth man from out­side the Bri­tish Isles to cap­tain Europe af­ter Seve Balles­teros, Olaz­a­bal and Langer.

He was cho­sen by a five­man panel of the three most re­cent cap­tains — Clarke, Paul McGin­ley and Olaz­a­bal — plus Euro­pean Tour chief ex­ec­u­tive Keith Pel­ley and Euro­pean Tour tour­na­ment com­mit­tee mem­ber Hen­rik Sten­son.

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