Thomas Bjorn, one of the most selfless servants of the European Tour, has finally been rewarded with captaincy of the Ryder Cup team when they try to win it back from the United States in Paris in 2018.
And at 45 years of age, he has been handed the job at the most appropriate time – absolutely confirming with the winning formula of Europe for several years before the loss at Hazeltine this year.
The fact that Bjorn would be the next captain was almost a gimme. He has earned his stripes on the golf course as a fantastic competitor, one of the longest serving players’ representative and also for being the vice-captain of the European Ryder Cup for as many as four times.
It was a unanimous decision by the five-man selection panel comprising three recent past captains Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal; European Tour Chief Executive, Keith Pelley, and European Tour Tournament Committee member Henrik Stenson.
Clarke and Olazabal would have seen Bjorn’s work from close quarters as he was their vice-captain in 2016 and 2012 respectively, apart from assisting Bernhard Langer as early as in 2004, and Colin Montgomerie in 2010.
Considering Clarke and Olazabal both voted for Bjorn, clearly shows they have been impressed with what the Great Dane brings to the table.
As a Ryder Cup player, Bjorn made a winning debut in 1997 at Valderrama under the inspirational captaincy of the legendary Seve Ballesteros, and was also in the winning teams in 2002 at The Belfry and 2014 at Gleneagles.
But one of the most important roles Bjorn has played – and this also brought him close to the rank and file of the European Tour – is as Chairman of the Tournament Committee since 2007. He will finally give up that role after being appointed captain.
Looking at the record, only one player has had more intense involvement with the winning history of European team – and that is Lee Westwood.
Bjorn’s experience – given that he has served under six different winning European team captains – and his connect with the players are definitely the two biggest factors that worked for him.
McGinley thought Bjorn’s biggest strength was his ability to communicate.
“He’s very happy to sit down with players and vice-captains for long discussions, and that’s a core key to being a successful Ryder Cup captain,” the Irishman said following the announcement.
It all cannot be pros and I am sure the committee would have thought about a couple of personality issues that is normally associated with Bjorn.
Wow. Truly honoured to be 2018 @RyderCupEurope captain. I cant wait for next 20+ months. Today is the greatness day of my career - so far 😉— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) December 6, 2016
The first is that he is a straight talker and tact is not usually his biggest plus point. And secondly, he is also known for his short fuse, although many players have told me that he has tempered down a bit lately.
I’d think of the first negative as a huge positive for a leader. The second can be a bit tricky.
Among other names who could have been discussed as contenders, Padraig Harrington would have been a strong one. However, the Irishman is definitely better suited for a stint in an away Ryder Cup, given his immense popularity in the United States.
And there is also the fact that Harrington has recently been in the winning circle, so he would definitely prefer to qualify for the team in 2018.
With the growing strength of American team, Bjorn will have his task cut out at Le National. One thing he should make sure is not too veer too much from what has worked so far.
Hazeltine was a defeat obviously, but the European system is not yet broken.
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