Captains
Thomas Bjørn
Captains

Europe

Captain's Blog: June

Hi everyone and welcome to the latest of my monthly Blogs on the day which sees us reach the milestone of 100 days to go to the first tee shot at Le Golf National. I started last month’s message by saying ‘watch this space’ in terms of an update on my remaining Vice Captains, so that seems the logical place to start this time round.

Quality quintet...

During the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, I took the opportunity to announce the completion of my Vice Captaincy line-up, with Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood joining Robert Karlsson, who I announced last year. Obviously, I’m delighted to have the experience of these five guys behind me – actually when I was sitting at the press conference I had a look down the table and I thought to myself, ‘Wow’, that is a very strong group! They are all widely respected in the game, are all current players who are well known to the players, and they also all possess a knowledge and understanding of what to expect from the golf course too. They each have strong personalities and forthright opinions which is vital under the spotlight of a Ryder Cup week. We are already having good communication on a range of topics. They are out at golf tournaments and picking things up all the time. If I don’t seen them myself at tournaments, I’m on the phone with them and it is great to have that contact.

Royal seal of approval...

On the topic of announcements, I was delighted to make another one earlier today that has very special resonance with my home country. HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark is one of the most respected and loved figures for all Danes, as well as being heavily involved in a variety of sports, including being a member of the International Olympic Committee. Having been part of the decision process that awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris, he was in the French capital yesterday and so I took the chance to meet up with him in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and officially welcome him as a Ryder Cup Ambassador. We have played together a couple of times in Pro-Ams and formed a strong relationship on the course, therefore it’s a great experience to now be able to continue that relationship off the course. The Crown Prince joins French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h and former Ukrainian footballer Andriy Shevchenko who we announced as ambassadors last year.

Rock on Tommy...

While congratulations should go to Brooks Koepka for his successful defence of the US Open last week, we should also recognise the performance of Tommy Fleetwood at Shinnecock Hills. To shoot 63 on a seriously difficult golf course to equal the best final round in US Open history was phenomenal and shows the world-class player he has become. Tommy’s game was going nowhere a couple of years ago, but what makes any player really strong is the ability to come through the bad times and Tommy has certainly achieved that. I was asked in a newspaper interview at the beginning of last year what I thought of Tommy Fleetwood, and below is the answer I gave:

“I think he will go on in leaps and bounds in the next few years because of what he has come through. He is a different character, in that he likes his own world, but he is a quality player and when he is ‘on’, he can live with the best in the world, there is no doubt about that.”

Maybe I should pick some lottery numbers this weekend?!

Vive la France...

Because we have reached the 100 days to go milestone, I have been asked quite a bit of late to reflect on various elements of my captaincy journey as well as take the odd look back into history. One of the main things I am regularly asked is what do I think Paris specifically, and France in general will bring to The Ryder Cup? The simple answer to that is, a lot! Paris is one of the world’s great cities and France has a great history of running major sporting events – hence the awarding of the Olympics I mentioned a moment ago. We are used to the majority of our home Ryder Cups being held in the UK or Ireland so being in France will certainly be different and I think we will see that in a number of ways including the flair and panache of the Opening Ceremony. There are many people, not just in Paris, but across the whole of the country who are determined to make this the greatest Ryder Cup the world has ever seen, and we are all fortunate to have such commitment on our side.

Special memories...

This is my eighth involvement in a Ryder Cup, having played on three occasions and been Vice Captain on another four. It seems a long time ago since I made my debut under Seve Ballesteros’ captaincy in Valderrama, but I suppose that’s because 21 years ago is a long time! As you can imagine, I am often asked what that week was like – I suppose for me it was a different kind of experience than it probably is for most guys, because I actually hadn’t been on Tour for very long. There was also a generational change happening in the European team at that time, with a new batch of players coming through – me being one of them – but there were still several greats of the game in the side such as Faldo, Langer, Woosie, Olly and of course Seve himself as captain. These were guys that had done so much for European golf and laid the foundations for the guys who play today. They were also guys I’d grown up watching win the greatest tournaments around the world, and there I was, all of a sudden, sitting in the same team room as them which was quite daunting at first. However, it was also one of the weeks I am most grateful for in my career, being able to do just that, sit and listen to them, play and practice with them and then be able to win the trophy for Seve with them too. It was a truly special week and one I will remember for the rest of my life.

True to myself...

Mention of Seve leads neatly into another question I am often asked, namely: ‘What were the seven captains I have worked with like?’ Well, they were certainly all very different! They all had an idea of how they wanted to be as a captain, and that came from their own personalities. When I look back at the seven of them I realise it is very important that you are true to yourself and not to simply think, ‘Oh I am going to take this element from him and this other element from him’. I think the players would see through that right away, so I have certainly tried to follow that rule and be myself in my own captaincy. There have been lots of things that have shaped me as a person and a golf professional since I first came on Tour in 1996 and I have also tried to use all of them in this journey too.

Nothing like it...

Finally, to end this month, I want to reflect on a question that I have been asked a number of times since I was appointed to this role in December 2016, namely; ‘What makes The Ryder Cup so different and so special?’ To be honest, there are many things. First of all, you are taking an individual sport and putting 12 players into a team where they have to work together and set out to do something together in an environment they are not used to. Secondly, they are representing so much more than just themselves. That is what often brings out the best in individual players, the reality that they are now representing their country, their Tour and their whole continent with millions of people behind them, willing them on. That is a very powerful emotion. Finally, there is the overall history of the event. Everybody in Europe remembers the sheer joy of winning this great trophy; players holing winning putts and producing moments that have gone down in the annals of the game and today’s players desperately want to be part of that history too. Quite simply, it’s The Ryder Cup – there is nothing like it. 

Until next time...