Bjorn ex­cited to see Woods in Ryder Cup

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Dun­bar

Tiger Woods re­turn­ing to the United States team af­ter a six-year ab­sence will make golf’s show­down even bet­ter, ac­cord­ing to Europe’s Ryder Cup cap­tain Thomas Bjorn.

“He brings so much great­ness to the game of golf,” Bjorn told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view Satur­day, two weeks be­fore the ac­tion in France.

A run­ner-up fin­ish at the PGA Cham­pi­onship last month be­hind Ryder Cup team­mate Brooks Koepka en­sured a resur­gent 42-year-old Woods won se­lec­tion from Bjorn’s coun­ter­part Jim Furyk.

It’s an eighth Ryder Cup ap­pear­ance, and the first since 2012, for Woods whose only win was in 1999. He has a los­ing record over­all though won four of seven du­els in sin­gles.

“For such a big event you want big per­son­al­i­ties, big pro­files. I’m ex­cited about see­ing that Amer­i­can team. I’m ex­cited about see­ing Tiger back in the fold,” Bjorn said in France at the Evian Cham­pi­onship women’s ma­jor.

The Sept. 28-30 event at Le Golf National in the south-west sub­urbs of Paris is a rare chance for French fans to watch Woods close up.

How Furyk chooses to use Woods is not open to spec­u­la­tion by Europe’s cap­tain. Bjorn, who won all three Ryder Cups he played in, was a vice cap­tain in 2004 and saw an open­ing day Woods-Phil Mick­el­son pair­ing back­fire at Oak­land Hills with two losses.

“What­ever (Tiger) brings to the Amer­i­can team, and all that, that’s for the Amer­i­cans to an­swer and Jim to deal with,” Bjorn said. “I fo­cus on our 12 and what they do.”

In­stead, the 47-yearold Dane is “quite ex­cited” about his five rook­ies — com­pa­triot Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hat­ton, Tommy Fleet­wood and Alex Noren.

“I think they’re a great bunch of guys and they’ve proven them­selves on the world stage,” Bjorn said.

Lack­ing Ryder Cup play, they com­bine for more ex­pe­ri­ence than the Amer­i­cans of the par-71 Al­ba­tros course. It has hosted the French Open on the Euro­pean Tour for more than 25 years.

Noren won there in July, as did Fleet­wood for the 2017 edition. In 2014, Koepka missed the cut — as did Bjorn — when the now three-time ma­jor win­ner was an un­her­alded mem­ber of the Euro­pean Tour.

“It’s a nice thing that we know it well but if it’s a big ad­van­tage? I don’t think so,” said Bjorn. “When you take the best play­ers in the world and put them on any golf course they are go­ing to find a way round it.”

Once a top-10 player, Bjorn’s own game has de­clined dur­ing an in­tense 20 months of prepa­ra­tion for his team. He is ranked No. 847 but that does not mat­ter now.

“I lead from be­hind and I push them for­ward,” Bjorn said of his play­ers. “It’s their mo­ment to shine. It’s their Ryder Cup.”

“I’ve never met a player yet who doesn’t get sur­prised about how great it is. I think they all will re­act re­ally well to it.”

JEFF ROBERSON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this Tues­day file photo, Thomas Bjorn, of Den­mark, cap­tain of the 2018 Euro­pean Ryder Cup team, speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the PGA Cham­pi­onship golf tour­na­ment, at Bel­lerive Coun­try Club in St. Louis.

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