Captain's Blog

Hi everyone and welcome to the latest of my blogs as we continue the journey towards The 2018 Ryder Cup. I ended my last blog by saying how much I was looking forward to the Year to Go event in Paris, so looking back on a magical few days in the French capital seems the logical place to start this month.

Vive la France….!

The Year to Go celebrations were amazing and showed off everything that France is about. Ever since I was appointed, there's been talk about us delivering the best Ryder Cup in history next September – I think it’s fair to say we are off to a pretty good start! Over the three days we were there, France rolled out the red carpet for us – literally on many occasions – and showed it is ready to take on one of the world’s great sporting events. Every country in Europe is rightly proud of its history but perhaps there is no country with a richer heritage than France and we certainly lived that with visits to iconic locations such as the Château de Versailles and the Élysée Palace. I’ve spoken to a lot of the French players on Tour since the event and, to a man, they were in awe of what we achieved and so proud that we managed to show their country off so well to the world. This will also be the first time The Ryder Cup has been staged in one of the world’s major cities and it is a mouthwatering prospect that when the match unfolds next year, it will have Paris as a backdrop – as a result it’s going to be delivered in a completely new way. It's going to be an event that I don't think we've seen in the game of golf before.

 

Touching hearts….

I’ve said in the past that The Ryder Cup provides so much more than just a game of golf over three days. It is beamed to 200 countries and to millions of people around the globe and shows an event that can bring a world, which is a little bit fragmented at times today, together. It touches hearts and we certainly felt that during the Year to Go event. To see the joy on the faces of the children we visited at the school close to Le Golf National and the excitement of the hundreds of children who came to watch us captain the elite French Juniors in the challenge match, was something special. But it was not just the children who experienced those emotions. Jim Furyk and I most definitely shared them during the unbelievable PR stunt we undertook on the Eiffel Tower where we recreated history by hitting shots off the world-renowned structure just as Arnold Palmer did 41 years ago. I saw the pictures from 1976 and to recreate that was a truly amazing experience and something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Two Presidents…..

I am well aware what an honour it is to be Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain and, at the same time, the responsibility that comes with the role. That was driven home recently when, in the space of a week, I had an audience with two Presidents! The first was French President Emmanuel Macron who we had breakfast with at the Élysée Palace as part of the Year to Go celebrations; the second was a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur during a fact-finding mission I undertook ahead of January’s EurAsia Cup match. Both of these meetings are a great indication of where golf can take you, to places where you never thought you would go. When you are 22, you are all about practicing and playing the game but once your career progresses, you realise that the game of golf reaches so many other things. It is a great platform.

Delighted and honoured…..

Talking of the EurAsia Cup, I’ve realised my last Blog was written just before I was announced as Captain of the European team for the event, so I want to take this opportunity to reiterate how delighted and honoured I am to be in that position and I am very much looking forward to the challenge that awaits us in January at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur from what I am sure will be a strong Asian team on home soil. I was lucky enough to be a member of the European Team for the first EurAsia Cup in 2014 and I have seen the event grow and develop since then. We have some of the best golfers in the world in Europe and I am relishing the opportunity to work closely with them as individuals and as a team to try and ensure we keep the trophy in European hands, following the victory in the last match in 2016.

European excellence….

As Europe’s Captain it is always good to see European players excel on the world stage and the latest example of that came at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in China at the end of last month where Justin Rose stormed through on the final day to grab his first WGC title while Henrik Stenson pushed him close to finish in a tie for second. I thought Justin was absolutely fantastic in the final round and of course, he carried that form into last week in Turkey, again coming from behind to win for the second week in a row. As for Henrik, I've watched him closely for the past four or five months and it looks like he's got the bit between his teeth again and really wants to get going which is great to see. Here’s hoping the injury he has picked up which has ruled him out of the Nedbank this week, won’t keep him out of action for too long. I thought they both looked very strong in China and hopefully they can carry this kind of form into next year.

 

Welcome back Paul…..

Understandably, there has been a lot of noise in the media over the past couple of weeks about Paul Casey decision to rejoin the European Tour for the 2018 season, hence making himself available to try and qualify for The Ryder Cup team. It's well‑documented I've spoken to Paul over the last few months and we have had open dialogue about where he is in his life. I’ve made no secret that I wanted him to be eligible, just as I want every European player to be eligible. When he is on form, Paul is right up there with the best in the world, he's a strong player and he's got great match play history. Now he has made the decision, the ball is in his court. It is my job to take the 12 best European players to Le Golf National next September and they will all be on form and all have their own particular strengths and attributes. If Paul Casey is one of those 12 at that time, then he’s got a good chance of being on the team. If he isn’t, then he won’t. Just like every European player, he knows the work that's ahead of him over the next ten months – he has to make it like everybody else.

Back in action…..

After my injury lay-off in August and September, I am pleased that the last few weeks have seen me back in action inside the ropes. Understandably there is still a bit of rust evident, but there have also been encouraging signs such as my second round 66 in Italy and a solid four round showing last week in Turkey. This week I am also in the field for the penultimate event of the European Tour season, the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the beautiful Gary Player Country Club at Sun City. It’s a pleasure to be returning to the scene of my last Tour triumph and somewhere that offers me many wonderful but poignant memories. While my win here four years ago was undoubtedly up there with one of the best weeks of my career, it was also a week tinged with sadness, not just for the people of South Africa, but for the entire world due to the passing of Nelson Mandela on the first day of the tournament. I was proud to win in the great man’s country that week and shooting 65 in the final round to beat a field of that quality was something I will always cherish.

 

Until next time…….

2018 RYDER CUP CAPTAIN

It has taken me a little while to update my website as things have been a little crazy recently (!) but I am absolutely delighted with my recent appointment as the 2018 Ryder Cup captain. It is a true honour for me and a lifelong dream.

I cannot wait to get started, I am already thinking about things everyday that I make myself write down so I don't forget!

A massive thank you to everyone for all the well wishes and congratulations - I hope to make you all proud!

Vive Le France!

Germany and France

Hello everyone!

Just a little update about my last two weeks on the road. Two weeks out and two cuts made which is always good to report! Unfortunately, two bad weekends have stopped any real progress! While I continue to work to strengthen my body and rehab my back I suppose I can't expect too much (try telling me that mid round!!). But there are a lot of positives to take out of these weeks and I will continue to work hard and try to make progress for the summer runs of tournaments.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summers!

TB

Ryder Cup News!

Absolutely delighted with the news that I will be Vice Captain to my great friend Darren Clarke at this year's Ryder Cup. The European team is starting to assemble nicely and I can't wait to be a part of it!

Shoulder to shoulder.

Go Team Europe!

T x

Valderrama - what a week!

Hi Everyone,

Happy Monday!

I just wanted to update you all on last week! Valderrama – what a great golf course! Felt good out there after 9 weeks away and, although I had some injury concerns on Sunday, pretty pleased I managed to battle to a T19 finish. Course management and playing as smart as I could was definitely the key around that track!

I also wanted to let you know that I have gone over to the dark side and joined the world of twitter! Still getting to grips with it (so be gentle!) but if you want to give me a follow you can find me @thomasbjorngolf.

Also, massive congratulations to Andrew Johnston on his maiden victory last week! Great things happen to great people!

Keep swinging :)

TB

European Tour Interview - Memories of Valderrama

In 1997, Real Club Valderamma became the first course in continental Europe to host The Ryder Cup, as the legendary Seve Ballesteros led Europe to victory on home soil. Thomas Bjørn, who made his Ryder Cup debut that week, shares his own memories of that unforgettable contest.

Flying out to Spain with my heroes was special. I was just 26 when I made my debut back in 1997 and I had only been on the European Tour 18 months. There was a transition going on in European golf. Apart from Sandy Lyle, we had all those heroes from the 1980s in the team – Faldo, Ollie, Woosie, Bernhard. They were the backbone of the 1997 team, then you had all these young players coming through, like Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and me.

It was a great balanced team. Nick and Seve were my big heroes. When we all met up at Heathrow, it was just a majestic scene for someone who had only been on Tour 18 months. If you come on Tour and make the first Ryder Cup available to you, it can be quite a daunting thing.

Things were happening so fast for me. To get everyone you aspire to be in the same room was daunting, but also very special. It is easy to forget some of the great moments in your career, because so much happens to you, but for me that was a moment that I will always look back on as being special.

Woosie was a massive help to me. I didn’t play on the first morning, but I watched the first guys tee off and then I sat on the buggy for nine holes with Seve. I just took in the atmosphere to see what it was. We got back to the hotel that Friday night and Seve and Woosie came up to me and told me I was playing with Woosie the next day. We went out and won that first match against Justin Leonard and Brad Faxon and it made me feel that I was part of the whole thing.

I was very fortunate as I played with Woosie as he was fantastic. He spent time with me at breakfast and on the range and told me just to play my golf. He took care of the first few holes to keep us alive and then we got on the back nine and I started playing well and holing some putts and we managed to win 2&1. As a young player it was really easy to trust a player with the experience of Woosie.

He probably played better by taking on that role of helping me through. This golf course is daunting in itself, but you add the pressure of The Ryder Cup and then the pressure of playing in your first Ryder Cup, and it was really daunting. image:

My singles match against Justin Leonard was unbelievable. I played Leonard in the singles and he was one of the best wedge players in the world, and on his day, on great greens, he was one of the best putters. He was a real superstar of the time, so I knew it would be tough. I was one over par after four holes and I was four down. I was a bit shellshocked to be honest, and Seve came to me on the fifth tee and said we need to play strokeplay. I said to him, “I’m one over par after four, which is not a complete disaster round here”.

I just tried to get one hole back at a time and it turned into an unbelievable match. I won the fifth hole and then we halved six and seven and then we didn’t halve a hole again after that. I birdied eight and nine to get all square then it just kept changing hands on the back nine. The next time I saw Seve was on the 17th and he looked like he was going to have a heart attack as it was so tight. He was desperate to win. I holed a putt on the 17th to go one up and it felt like such a relief, so I was gutted I didn’t finish it off.

That is one of the few regrets I have. I had worked so hard to get back, then to walk on to the 17th green, which was like a football stadium, and leave it one up was a massive relief. Then to go to 18 was almost an anti-climax, as it was much smaller. I bogeyed the last and Justin got up and down from the bunker for par. In the balance of the match it was a fair result, because it was a fantastic match, and in the end Europe won, but at the time I was gutted. Seve said to me it could be the half point that won the Ryder Cup, but I thought it could be the one that lost it.

Seve mentioned so many times in the years after that my match was so important in his eyes because the rest of the team benefited from seeing me fight back from four over. My favourite Ryder Cup moment hands down was my fourball with Darren when we beat Tiger and Paul Azinger at the Belfry in 2002. Our friendship, the way we played and the way we finished it off was something special. But my singles match against Leonard in 1997 was also a magnificent moment in my career. It formed me as a player. It would have been easy to have lost everything being four down after four holes, but it showed me that it is never over and you have to keep fighting. That has stayed with me.

We had to win it for Seve. The Ryder Cup is intense enough, but that week there was so much extra attention with it being the first one on the continent and with Seve being captain in Spain. All week you had that feeling we have to win because of Seve. We couldn’t let him down. He had been everything to European Ryder Cup Teams, and we simply could not let him down.

I had such a great relationship with Seve. I’d played so much golf with him that year, so when I was in the situation of my first Ryder Cup, I had him to lean on. Seve knew he had a team containing unbelievable experience, with some big personalities who had achieved a lot, and then he had all these young players who he had to show the way. So as a captain he had a difficult job as there was such a big divide. The week itself was at best chaotic, but he dealt with that challenge well.

It is very easy as a captain to grow a great relationship with your players going into a Ryder Cup, but my fondest memories of Seve are actually from after the 1997 Ryder Cup. He stayed true to that friendship we had and I could always approach him. He gave so much to me after 1997, because of the memories we had. He realised we had done something great together, and he gave more to me than he did to most. I played practice rounds with him at Augusta. Seve just had such a different outlook. He came from a different world into this game. Winning was the only thing to him. He didn’t care how we played.

I learned so much from him in that respect. When I look back at the wins I’ve had in my career, I can only say there are two or three of them that I’ve played great, but I can find quite a few where I just wanted to win so much, and that came from Seve. It’s not until they are gone that you miss your memories so much. Seve was one of my heroes growing up and sometimes you can meet your heroes and they disappoint you, but Seve didn’t. He was fantastic to me

The 1997 Ryder Cup changed perspectives. When I started out on my career, the thought of a Dane winning on the European Tour was so farfetched. If you said you were going to win, people laughed at you. When I won in Loch Lomond in 1996, that all changed. Now people at home almost expect Danes to win and it is a completely different set of problems. The effect that win had was amazing. Then going on to play in The Ryder Cup transformed everything.

It’s almost a complete blur for me now, looking back. People had a difficult time to keep up with it. The 1997 Ryder Cup was obviously a massive thing, not only for me but for the whole of Danish golf. It changed the whole outlook. You then had other Danish players believing they could do it, and you saw Anders Hansen win at Wentworth and Søren Kjeldsen win here at Valderamma, which are big tournaments on tough courses, and Søren Hansen made the Ryder Cup team at Valhalla, and all of a sudden it wasn’t just me.

Now people are expecting Søren Kjeldsen to qualify for the Ryder Cup Team, so he is having to keep those expectations down, whereas in 1997 if I told people I hoped to make it they would have laughed at me, so I kept it quiet. Perspectives have certainly changed since then.

Experience could help me this week. On a golf course like this, experience is everything. You have to have some sort of game and control, of course, but experience is crucial. You can’t get ahead of yourself here. It is like Augusta in that there is a fine line between a great shot and a disaster.

I’ve got a decent record here – I was fifth here in the 2010 Andalucía Masters and ninth in the 2007 Volvo Masters – and I’ve always had the attitude of just grinding it out, knowing that people will make mistakes. If I had the attitude I have at Valderrama elsewhere in my career, I would have achieved more. A lot of it stems back to that Ryder Cup and the way Seve prepared us to play this golf course. I had the chance to listen to some of the best players of all time talking about how they would play this course. If you don’t take that in, there is something wrong with you. I’ve no expectation whatsoever this week because I’ve been really struggling with my back this year. I played well in Abu Dhabi and then got to Dubai and I was hurting so much. I literally was lying down for six weeks after that. I only started hitting balls last week and I’ve got a long way to go, but I need to get myself healthy again.

I’m working on getting ready for 2017, and what happens between now and then is a process. I’ve had serious injuries over the years, but this one was a real scare. There were a few moments after three or four weeks where I thought I might never play again. It’s cleared up well enough for me to play now but where I am golf-wise I probably shouldn’t have come here to play, but I was just dying to play Valderrama again. It means that much to me.

New Website!

Hello everyone!

I'm really excited to welcome you to my new website. Here you will be able to access all my latest news, updated schedule and find out what I'm up to on Tour!

The first piece of news to tell you is I'm back on tour next week at Valderrama after 9 weeks out with injury. I'm so pleased to be playing again after quite a frustrating start to the season. Lots of practicing this week! I'll keep you posted with how I get on and how long it takes to dust away those cobwebs!

Also, I am very happy to report a new partnership with Nordik electronic cigarettes.  I used my time off to good effect and have given up smoking! 4 weeks and counting without a cigarette thanks to my friends at Nordik! I can't believe how easy it has been and how good I am already feeling. The time has flown! I hope some of you can join me on this journey...

Here's to a happy and healthy 2016.

TB