The appointment of Denmark's Thomas Bjorn as Ryder Cup Europe's captain for the 2018 matches in Paris, shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those close to Ryder Cup USA.
Bjorn, a well-respected player on both sides of the pond, was the natural next choice to take the reigns for the Europeans. At age 45, he still competes regularly on the European Tour, so he's familiar with the players who will likely be on his team. Also, the 15-time European Tour winner competed in three Ryder Cups as a player -- 1997, 2002 and 2014 -- and has served as a vice captain on four occasions.
That pretty much follows the script of Europe's "grooming" process for future captains -- guys who have been there before as players and have spent time in the "back room." Even better, of those seven teams Bjorn was a part of in some capacity, he was on the losing end just once -- that was at Hazeltine this past October.
"I'm very excited for Thomas," said 2016 winning Ryder Cup USA Captain Davis Love III. "He has been a big part of Ryder Cup Europe as a player, Assistant Captain and committee leader. All of that experience will make him a great captain. I know his players will be excited to play for him in Paris."
Bjorn will be the first Scandinavian Ryder Cup captain and joins Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal as just the fourth captain from continental Europe since it joined forces with Great Britain & Ireland at the matches in 1979.
Here's Bjorn's reaction to the captaincy announcement:
"I've never looked forward to anything so much in my life" pic.twitter.com/p9PDK557qj
— Ryder Cup Team EUR (@RyderCupEurope) December 6, 2016
In a tweet, Bjorn called the captaincy appointment the, "greatest day of my career -- so far."
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
In the past, Bjorn hasn't shied away from giving his opinion -- like in 2006 when he was denied a Captain's Pick by then Ryder Cup Europe Captain Ian Woosnam ahead of the matches at K Club in Ireland, which Europe would win by a whopping nine-point margin, 18 1/2-9 1/2.
Around that time, Bjorn still had the nickname, "Semtex" amongst his pairs for his explosive temper.
Said Bjorn of Woosnam's captaincy before those matches: "So far his captaincy has been the most pathetic I have ever seen... The man is barmy -- to be captain and not communicate with a team or those in contention at all. I haven't spoken to him for six months, and then I find that I'm not in the team by watching it on television. How can that be right?"
Clearly, emotions got the best of Bjorn -- the competitor in him, perhaps. And based on a tweet Bjorn sent out this past October, it looks like there's no strife between he and Woosnam these days.
See Woosie is being inducted into golf hall of fame!!!
What took you so long?
Congrats to everyone in this years class!
— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) October 18, 2016
Over the years, Bjorn has calmed significantly. His many years spent on the European Ryder Cup Committee, his passion for the matches and his relationship with his pairs all make him a perfect logical choice to take the reigns for 2018.
And, even at age 45, he still recognizes there's room for improvement in certain parts of his life, evidenced by a recent tweet of a significant personal anniversary.
One year ago today I stopped smoking.....
To anyone with thoughts of stopping, can I just say: Do it, it's worth it!!!
— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) December 1, 2016
Bjorn also showed his lighter side in April 2016 during an interview with little Billy:
Interestingly, this will be the fourth time in five home matches that Europe will be led by a player in the Ryder Cup without a PGA Tour win. The others are Sam Torrance (2002), Colin Montgomerie (2010) and Paul McGinley (2014), all of whom were victorious in their turns as captain and all of whom spent most of their respective careers playing in Europe.
That could prove to be an interesting wrinkle should Ryder Cup Europe decide to tweak its qualifying process for 2018. The way it stands now, a player must be a European Tour member to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team.
After the 17-11 defeat to the U.S. at Hazeltine, there has been talk of perhaps changing the process a little bit since the likes of Russell Knox and Paul Casey, most notably, played fantastic golf on the PGA Tour leading up to the 2016 matches, but weren't considered for the team because they didn't possess European Tour membership. The same thing has happened in the past with Sweden's Carl Pettersson who makes his home in the U.S. and plays almost exclusively on the PGA Tour.
Should a change be made, would Bjorn -- a European Tour company man through and through -- even consider a player who plays exclusively on the PGA Tour for one of his captain's picks should they not make the team on points (again, assuming there's a stipulation for Europeans on the PGA Tour accumulating points in the first place)? Or, would he take favor with a player who plays most of his golf on and supports the European Tour?
We'll see how it plays out.
One thing we do know is that history is on Bjorn's side for a win. The Europeans haven't lost a home game since 1993 at the Belfry. In the 11 Ryder Cups played since that defeat, Europe has gone a remarkable 8-3.