Comic relief helps Thomas Bjorn groom European Ryder Cup team

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Comic relief helps Thomas Bjorn groom European Ryder Cup team

2018 Ryder Cup

Comic relief helps Thomas Bjorn groom European Ryder Cup team

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – How do you motivate 12 players to win the Ryder Cup? Make fun of them.

It might just work for European captain Thomas Bjorn.

The 47-year-old Dane treated his guys to a “motivational” video in his first full team gathering at Le Golf National on Monday evening. Bjorn told his players he had a serious video to show them. What followed was 10 minutes of Irish comedian/impressionist Conor Moore making fun of every member of the European team, including Bjorn.

“We had a great video clip last night, which was done by Conor, and he kind of took everyone off in the team, and it was extremely funny, I have to say,” Ian Poulter said. “It was hilarious.”

It came as a pleasant surprise to European rookie Tommy Fleetwood, who will probably never forget Moore’s impersonation of Open champion Francesco Molinari.

“Fran’s was just hilarious,” Fleetwood said. “I think Fran’s has made me giggle for about 10 hours now. It was a nice little laugh for 10 minutes.”

It’s a far cry from the approach Bjorn might have been expected to take when he first emerged onto the European Tour with the nickname “Semtex,” an apt reference to his explosive temper. Maybe that’s why he might just get the best out of rookie Tyrrell Hatton in this Ryder Cup, a player also known for his short fuse.

“I see a lot of myself in him,” Bjorn joked.

Bjorn’s approach exemplifies how much he’s matured as a person. He’s grown from fiery character to elder statesman, to the extent he spent 10 years as chairman of the European Tour’s powerful tournament committee. No significant change has occurred on the European Tour without his input.

Bjorn has been around European players long enough to know what makes them tick. He knows the value of that hard to define intangible that often makes European teams work: “banter.”

Banter is a huge element to European team spirit. It basically can be distilled down to humorous ridiculing of colleagues. It’s far subtler than “trash talk,” and Bjorn will make sure it’s part and parcel of his attempt to win back the Ryder Cup along with the serious stuff captains have to do.

“That set a nice tone,” Bjorn said. “It was a good atmosphere in that room yesterday. I think that there might be one or two that found out a few truths about themselves about how people look at them, but they took that all in great spirits.

“When you get into what’s a week of high pressure, you’ve also got to have a bit of fun. I very much always start in a place with stuff like that; that if you’re going to make fun of people, you’ve got to start making fun of yourself, as well, so that’s kind of where we went with it.”

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