Bjorn was born to lead 2018 European Ryder Cup team

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Bjorn was born to lead 2018 European Ryder Cup team

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Bjorn was born to lead 2018 European Ryder Cup team

Thomas Bjorn came through his first test as captain of a European team. His next will be much tougher when he faces the United States in the Ryder Cup this September in Paris.

Bjorn is more than qualified for the job.

The 46-year-old rallied his European side to win the EurAsia Cup. Trailing by a point heading into the final singles session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Europe won seven of the first eight matches Sunday to give the Dane a 14-10 winning dress rehearsal before a much more difficult task against the Americans at Le Golf National this year.

The 15-time European Tour winner had everything to lose. His European team was far stronger on paper than Arjun Atwal’s 12 players. Bjorn has everything to gain in Paris as Europe hopes to regain the cup it lost at Hazeltine two years ago. The U.S. will enter that match as favorites on paper, so Bjorn must use every ounce of his experience to regain the trophy Europe has become so used to winning over recent years.

Those not familiar with the inner workings of the European Tour look at Bjorn as a very good player who probably should have a major to his name. He’s much more than that: He’s one of the most powerful men in European golf. He commands huge respect among his peers and has worked tirelessly to better the tour since his rookie season in 1996.

Bjorn has eight top-10 finishes in majors, including three runner-up outings. He was a distant second to Tiger Woods in the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews and runner-up to Phil Mickelson in the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. However, the 2003 British Open at Royal St. George’s is the major that harkens most memories of Bjorn. He probably would have won if not needing three shots to escape a greenside bunker on the 16th hole in the final round. He made double bogey and finished a shot behind Ben Curtis.

Bjorns’s bigger contribution to European golf has come through his time as chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee, a role he took in 2007. He stepped down as chairman to concentrate on his Ryder Cup commitments but still serves on the committee. Bjorn has had a big say in every important European decision made over those 10 years and is still a powerful influencer.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in the tour, even though I’ve got quite close to the bone at times,” he told Golfweek. “I want to know what’s going on. It’s much easier for me to deal with my golf because I’m not worrying about what’s going on, or what discussions are taking place.”

“He’s hugely respected,” said England’s Richard Finch, who served on the committee with Bjorn. “He has the tour’s best interests at heart. Even if an issue were, say, detrimental toward him but in the tour’s best interest, he’d do what was best for the tour.”

Bjorn succeeded England’s Jamie Spence as chairman. Spence resigned because he found it hard to deal with the dual role of chairman and player. Not Bjorn.

“He’s a very strong individual,” Spence said. “He’s a perfectionist, but he’s also got that strength of character that allows him to deal with the adversity in his own life and make sure the well-being of the tour is catered for.”

The selection of Bjorn as captain of this year’s European Ryder Cup team was never really in doubt, despite the tour saying he was up against strong candidates. Not only has he played in three winning matches – 1997, 2002 and 2014 – he served as vice captain on three occasions. He was part of Colin Montgomerie’s back-room team in 2010 and served similar roles for Jose Maria Olazabal and Darren Clarke in 2012 and 2016.

In other words, there is nothing that happens behind the scenes at a Ryder Cup that Bjorn doesn’t know about. He also knows just how important the Ryder Cup is to the European Tour. Ryder Cup profits, especially home-match profits, provide the funds that keep the European Tour afloat.

So Bjorn will put his heart and soul into delivering Samuel Ryder’s prized chalice back to Europe against a more powerful U.S. team. He’s the right man at the right time to get Europe back on track after losing at Hazeltine. Gwk

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