Vice Captains complete Bjørn's backroom team
European Captain Thomas Bjørn has announced that Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood will join Robert Karlsson to complete the European Vice Captain line-up for The 2018 Ryder Cup against the United States at Le Golf National, in France, from September 28-30.
The quartet will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Dane’s backroom team courtesy of a combined 24 Ryder Cup appearances, joining Swede Karlsson, who featured in the 2006 and 2008 contests, to bring that total figure to 26. Between them, Donald, Harrington, Karlsson, McDowell and Westwood have also amassed a grand total of 56 points for Europe over the 19-year spell from 1997 to 2016.
Outside The Ryder Cup arena, the newly revealed quartet are also hugely respected for their individual golfing achievements on the global stage, with Harrington and McDowell both Major Champions, while Donald and Westwood have each held the World Number One spot on the Official World Golf Ranking. Added to that, of course, Karlsson is a former European Number One.
Speaking at the 2018 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, Bjørn said: “I am delighted not only to make this announcement today but also in the knowledge that I will have people of the calibre of Luke, Padraig, Robert, Graeme, Lee alongside me at Le Golf National.
“All five are widely respected throughout the game, are all current players who are well known to the players who will be in our team come September, and they also all possess a knowledge and understanding of what to expect from the golf course at Le Golf National too.
“You only need to look at the record books to see that their Ryder Cup pedigree speaks for itself. Each of them has played both home and away so they are well versed in the contest and know how to handle the special and unique atmosphere.
“They all possess strong personalities but each of them will also bring something different to the team, giving us great balance. They have forthright opinions which is vital under the spotlight of a Ryder Cup week and is something which can only help our cause as we try and regain the trophy.”
Donald has featured in four victorious European Ryder Cup Teams, winning 10½ points from his 15 matches, including a critical victory in the opening singles match against Bubba Watson during the Miracle of Medinah in 2012. The 40-year-old Englishman has won seven European Tour titles, and in 2011, the year he claimed the World Number One spot, he became the first player to win the money lists in Europe and America in the same year.
Donald said: “I'm delighted and honoured to have been selected by Thomas as one of his Vice Captains for this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris. The Ryder Cup has always held a very special place in my heart - a lot of my fondest memories on the golf course have come during The Ryder Cup.
“This will be very different for me, watching, rather than playing, but I'm hoping my past experience will help Team Europe regain the Ryder Cup. I can't wait to get started and help in any way that I can, and I'm very much looking forward to the challenge."
Harrington played in six Ryder Cups between 1999 and 2010, featuring as part of a winning European Team on four occasions, and was a vice captain at Gleneagles in 2014 and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. The 46-year-old Irishman was Europe’s Number One in 2007 after winning The Open Championship at Carnoustie, and he retained the Claret Jug the following year, before claiming his third Major Championship at the US PGA Championship a month later.
Harrington said: “I am delighted to have been asked to be part of Thomas’ team of Vice Captains. I always want to be a part of the European Ryder Cup Team in any capacity and hope I can provide a positive contribution.
“It will be my third time serving Europe as a Vice Captain, with the last time being alongside Thomas at Hazeltine. We know each other really well, especially in the context of being part of the intense pressures of the backroom team in Ryder Cup week.
“We are all united in the mission of reclaiming The Ryder Cup in Paris and I know Thomas has a very strong strategy in place that will give us absolutely the best possible chance to do this.”
McDowell has appeared in the biennial contest on four occasions, famously claiming the winning point at The Celtic Manor Resort in 2010, three months after becoming the first European in 40 years to win the US Open. The 38-year-old Northern Irishman claimed three points from his three matches at Gleneagles four years ago, setting the tone for a European triumph with a 2&1 victory in the lead singles match against Jordan Spieth, and has won a total of nine points from his 15 Ryder Cup matches.
McDowell said: “My four Ryder Cup appearances have been the greatest experiences so far of my career. The idea of playing for a team in a sport which is inherently individual is something special and it is the reason players love The Ryder Cup so much. Memories and relationships that are forged on and off the course those weeks last a lifetime.
“Having been fortunate enough to win twice around Le Golf National, it is obvious to me what a stunning venue it will serve to be for The 2018 Ryder Cup. I know that I can contribute a huge amount to the team this year given my experience at the venue and appearances in past Ryder Cups.
“It is a huge honour to be announced as one of Captain Bjørn’s backroom staff and comforting to me that I will be in Paris in some shape or form this year. It goes without saying that playing for Team Europe this year is still a huge goal and one I will be giving 100%, but in the meantime I am very excited to be an integral part of the journey to France and victory for Team Europe at The Ryder Cup.”
Westwood made his debut at Valderrama in 1997, the only previous occasion that Continental Europe has hosted The Ryder Cup, and has played in each of the last ten Ryder Cups - eight of them as part of a winning European Team - with Sir Nick Faldo the only player to have made more appearances against the United States. The 45-year-old Englishman has contributed an impressive 23 points in the blue of Europe to rank as the continent’s fourth highest points scorer in the biennial contest. He has also enjoyed considerable individual success in the global game, winning 23 European Tour titles, topping the European money list in 2000 and 2009, and holding the World Number One spot in 2010, when he ended Tiger Woods’ five-year reign.
Westwood said: “I am honoured to have been selected by Thomas to be one of what I think is a pretty impressive quintet of vice captains. Having been fortunate to play in the last ten matches, I am actually looking forward to contributing to Europe’s cause in a slightly different way at this year’s contest.
“I am sure it is going to be a very different experience for me, but I am relishing having a role in helping Europe win in Paris and, in particular, in assisting Thomas in his role as Captain.
“Of course, my ideal scenario is that I hit a hot streak of form over the summer and force my way in to the team but, quite honestly, as long as I am able to contribute to the 2018 European team in some way, I am going to be happy.” The qualification campaign for the 2018 European Team concludes at the Made in Denmark tournament at Captain Bjørn’s home Silkeborg club on Sunday September 2. This week’s BMW PGA Championship marks the next phase in the qualification process with points earned at European Tour events from Wentworth until Made in Denmark multiplied by 1.5 on both the World Points List and the European Point List.
The 2018 Ryder Cup itself, the 42nd staging of the contest, will be played at Le Golf National, France, from September 28-30, where Europe will try to regain the trophy following defeat at Hazeltine National last year, with the aiming of extending an impressive winning record on home soil which stretches back to Valderrama in 1997.