Thomas Bjørn has been named as the European captain for The 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris, France, from September 28 – 30, 2018.
The 45 year old was the first Danish player to represent Europe against the United States when he made his debut under Seve Ballesteros in 1997, the year the biennial contest was first played in continental Europe at Valderrama, in Spain. Twenty-one years later, he will become the first Dane, and the first Scandinavian, to lead Europe when The Ryder Cup returns to mainland Europe for the second time at Le Golf National.
Bjørn will bring a wealth of experience to the role of captain, having featured on three victorious European Ryder Cup teams as a player, with successful appearances at The Belfry in 2002 and the win at Gleneagles in 2014 following his 1997 debut. He has also served as a vice captain on four occasions – under Bernhard Langer in 2004, Colin Montgomerie in 2010, José María Olazábal in 2012 and Darren Clarke at Hazeltine National earlier this year – while he has also made a hugely significant contribution to the development of the European Tour as Chairman of the Tournament Committee since 2007, a role he will now relinquish following his appointment as captain.
The 15-time European Tour winner, who was twice a runner-up in The Open Championship, also knows the 2018 host venue particularly well, having played in the Open de France a total of 14 times at Le Golf National, with his best finish a share of third place in 2007.
He was chosen as Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup captain by a five-man selection panel comprising the three most recent European Ryder Cup Captains – Clarke, Paul McGinley and Olazábal – as well as the Chief Executive of the European Tour, Keith Pelley, and European Tour Tournament Committee member Henrik Stenson.
He said: “It’s a huge honour for me to be named European captain for The 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris. This is one of the greatest days in my career.
“I studied a lot of captains as a player and as a vice captain and always wondered what that feeling would be like to be the one leading out a team of 12 great players. Now it’s my turn to do just that and it is an exciting moment for me.
“I have lived and breathed the European Tour for so long, and now I will do the same with The Ryder Cup for the next two years. I’m very much looking forward to taking on this task.”
Bjørn’s Ryder Cup career began in 1997 when he qualified for Ballesteros’ team only a year after winning the first of his 15 European Tour titles at the Loch Lomond World Invitational, and only two years after winning the Challenge Tour Rankings in 1995. He won one-and-a-half points from his two matches at Valderrama, partnering Ian Woosnam to defeat Justin Leonard and Brad Faxon in the fourballs, and then halving with Leonard in the singles.
In his next appearance in 2002, Bjørn took two points from his four matches at The Belfry, teaming up with Clarke to defeat Tiger Woods and Paul Azinger in the fourballs, and beating Stewart Cink in the singles.
He had to wait another 12 years to make his third appearance as a player, qualifying for McGinley’s team at Gleneagles where he partnered Martin Kaymer to earn half a point against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker in the Friday fourballs.
In the intervening period between his second and third appearance, Bjørn was part of the backroom staff on three occasions, assisting Langer at Oakland Hills in 2004, Montgomerie at The Celtic Manor Resort in 2010 and Olazábal at Medinah in 2012. He then reprised that role under Clarke at Hazeltine National earlier this year in his only experience of defeat to date in the Ryder Cup arena.
Bjørn now succeeds Clarke and will lead the European bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup, while he will be looking to extend the continent’s impressive run of consecutive victories on home soil to six.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, speaking on behalf of the Ryder Cup Europe selection panel, said: “We are delighted to announce that Thomas has accepted the invitation from the panel to captain Europe at The 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris.
“Thomas has many wonderful characteristics which he will bring to the role of captain. Firstly, he is incredibly experienced having played in three winning Ryder Cup teams and having been a vice captain four times. He also has commitment. We have seen that over the last nine years as Tournament Committee chairman, so we know as Ryder Cup captain he will have the same unwavering commitment.
“Thirdly, he has passion. Not only for this wonderful game, but for the European Tour and Team Europe and he wants the Ryder Cup to be the greatest sporting event it can be. So when you look at his these characteristics, I am convinced they will make him great Ryder Cup captain.”
Bjørn is the second captain after Clarke to be chosen using Ryder Cup Europe’s new selection process – the third method used to pick The Ryder Cup captain since players from Continental Europe joined the fold for the 1979 contest, under the captaincy of John Jacobs, at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
From then until 1997, when the late Ballesteros led Europe in his homeland at Valderrama, the European Ryder Cup Captain was chosen by the Ryder Cup Committee, who selected Jacobs again in 1981, Tony Jacklin in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989, and Bernard Gallacher in 1991, 1993 and 1995.
However, in 1999, Mark James was the first European captain to be nominated by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee and ratified by the Ryder Cup Board, a process which went on to select Sam Torrance (2002), Bernhard Langer (2004), Ian Woosnam (2006), Sir Nick Faldo (2008), Montgomerie (2010), Olazábal (2012) and McGinley (2014).