Bjorn getting his shot at Team Europe helm
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.