News & Opinion

Thomas Bjorn: ‘It’s a good time to be Ryder Cup captain’

Thomas Bjorn, who will captain the European team against the U.S. in the 2018 Ryder Cup matches in France, was interviewed Tuesday on Facebook Live from European Tour headquarters at Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, England. Here are excerpts from the discussion with Bjorn, a 46-year-old Dane who is a 15-time winner on the European Tour and veteran of three Ryder Cups, all victorious for Europe:

What was it like being at Augusta for the Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose finish down the stretch?

It was amazing. It's a very special place, and even when you go there as a non?competitor, it's a bit different, but then to watch those two go at it on Sundaywas remarkable. It's difficult not to feel for Justin for the way he played and the way he handled himself. You wanted to hand out two green jackets on the day, but that wasn't going to happen. To see Sergio win his first Masters, his first major, was very special. There's probably not anybody in the game that deserves it more than he does. Now finally he got one and probably won’t surprise anyone if he went on to win a couple more.

How was having five Europeans in the top eight at Augusta a good sign for your captaincy?

European golf is in a great place, and there's obviously some young players that are also showing some great signs. We all know what the Roses and the McIlroys and the Garcias and Stensons stand for; we know what they deliver. It's what comes after that looks exciting. You’ve obviously got the likes of (Thomas) Pieters and (Jon) Rahm, but there's a lot more down that list, (Tommy) Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick and so many great youngsters coming through, so European golf is in a great place and it's a good time to be Ryder Cup captain.

What are your thoughts on Jon Rahm?

He's burst on the scene, and he's a big strong lad and he can take on the best players in the world and has a great career in front of him. There's some belief that he's going to go on to be the next great European player, and I'm just glad to sit on the sideline and watch it. He could be a great addition. You're not going to maintain great form over the next 16 months, so he's going to have his little ups and downs along the way, but what he's showing when he's on form is very encouraging. I don't want the players to think Ryder Cup too much. I want them to concentrate on their own golfing world at the moment, and that includes him.

What do you think is the right balance of rookies versus veterans on the team?

You’ve got to have both: somewhere between seven and nine veterans and then the rest rookies, you’ve got a pretty decent balance. But it also depends on who the rookies are and who the veterans are. It makes the captain's job easier, actually, if there's some new players in the team as well. When there are too many veterans, it's actually difficult to get them paired and working together.  But I'm not really in control of that. I'm in control of four of them (captain’s picks). I'm not in control of the eight others (automatic qualifiers). So you wait and see how the team shapes up and then you try and balance the team out with your picks.

What’s more important: to complement the styles of play or the personalities of the two guys?

That could also be a combination. When you’ve got four (captain’s picks), as I said before, it is about matching the team up. You get given eight (automatic qualifiers), and then I’ve got to match the team up with what I think and I'll do this with my vice captains, what is going to be the best balance of the team. In the past, senior players have said, it's not always the best player that you have to pick. It might be the one that balances the team out, so you can work the team a little bit better.  But that said, you want people on form, and that's why the qualifications system has been changed. Form is of importance. So, it's difficult to sit here now and say this is exactly how you're going to do it, because you’ve got to know what the eight are. That's where you can kind of make a decision of how you're going to shape up the team.

Which French players have best chance of playing a home Ryder Cup match?

I would like to see a French player on the team. Victor Dubuisson has played before. Alex Levy has shown great form, and his best is great enough to be there. Romain Langasque has all the tools in the world. I put this to the French players: it's up to them. They’ve got to have this as a goal, to be part of this, but it can't be their main goal. It has to be something that comes by achieving other things. The greatest players in the world in our team, I don't think they have Ryder Cup as a goal to make the team. It comes as a natural progression of them playing great.