Q&A: Thomas Bjorn discusses what it was like to captain the Europeans to victory at the 2018 Ryder Cup
Add Thomas Bjorn to the list of winning Ryder Cup captains. The Danish golfer, with 21 professional victories to his name, and who has played on three victorious Ryder Cup teams, most recently in 2014, successfully captained the European side to a resounding victory last weekend at Le Golf National. Bjorn's captains picks—Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey—which were scrutinized by some before the matches began, out-performed Jim Furyk's picks by a wide margin—accounting for seven-and-a-half points more than the U.S. side. And if you add that up, that would be the margin of victory Team USA lost to the Europeans by. Here are some selections from Bjorn's post-Ryder Cup comments after a victorious Sunday at Le Golf National.
How does it feel to captain a winning side?
Thomas Bjorn: "How do you sum that up? You know, I felt like—I felt all along that this was a good group of guys, but I have to say, when we got here on Monday, we got together. This turned out pretty exciting because the way that the 12 of them have just joined up together as a team and the way they looked after each other and been there for each other and been there for each other throughout the whole week made captaincy pretty easy.
"The hardest thing about the captaincy I think this week was that there's so many guys playing well, and being in such good frame of mind that I didn't really -- I wanted to get everybody on the golf course, but you can't.
"Today's performance, there was a little moment in the middle of it all where I was getting a little bit worried, but then everybody stood up and did their bit. You know, I can't describe how I feel about these 12. They have been amazing from day one, and I'm just so proud of them."
I know you said you didn't look at the other team, but there was so much made before this Ryder Cup of how strong the American Team was, one of the strongest teams ever put together, etc. Now that you guys, you've not only beaten them, but beaten them pretty convincingly score-wise, how good does that make this European Team in Ryder Cup context?
Thomas Bjorn: "It's up there, I have to say. But it's down to the players on the team. It's down to what they are as their personalities and what they want to achieve.
"You know, it's no secret we get together about this and we always have done. We went through a transition last time, and you know, in the team, and sometimes you go through that and that becomes difficult, and especially when you go away, this team was just a very, very solid team, and all of these guys that are here, they are quality golfers. They are putting their stamp on the world scene, and there are a couple on this team that are right on the way to the top of the game over the next few years, and they will be massive parts of these European teams in the future.
"It's a great group. It's a group that believes in themselves and what they stand for, and they carry the torch on for what the European Ryder Cup teams is all about. They understand the history. They understand what we're about, and that's what will do them great going forward."
When you were making the captain's picks, obviously you have to leave people off and there was a handful of guys that were having pretty good years that you left off and went with the experience with these guys. Can you speak to how much of a difference your captain's picks made in these matches?
Thomas Bjorn: "Well, I'm not very good at adding up but I'm sure if I put these numbers together, they make the difference in the score. I think I got it right, and so, you know, they have been fantastic. They bring more than they do -- I couldn't have dreamt of what they brought on the golf course. They have been fantastic this week on the golf course.
"But in the team room, you know, they bring the experience. They bring the understanding. It's those guys that last night sit and make sure that everybody's in the right frame of mind and they are ready to go out and play because they have done it so many times before.
"I think it takes to play in The Ryder Cup and being in a lot of team rooms and to understand what it's all about. Sometimes when you have some great new guys coming through where you've got to balance it out with experience; it worked well for us this week, it really has.
"When you take on the captaincy, you can never dream of a score line like this. You know it's going to be close, but you can't dream of a score line like this. That's obviously down to all 12 players, but I'm extremely proud of those four guys that got picked, because it's by no means easy to be picked. There's pressure on you if you're going to be picked, and they stood up, all of them this week, and showed what they are worth.
"You know, from Sergio and Ian that are such the heartbeat of what we do; Henrik that brings all the calmness, and then Paul, you know, you can only say, welcome back."
How does it feel to captain a winning side?
Thomas Bjorn: "We're very proud today, this has been easy, they have been amazing, just the 12 of them has just been unbelievable. The way they bonded with each other, there were things they had done, and how they just get together and do a proper job; they were determined. They just set out to do a job themselves, and I mean, it was an easy job to guide them in that direction.
"They wanted this desperately, and they stood up and you know, so many things has happened this week, Francesco and Tommy and Sergio, what he's about to hopefully do, and there's so many great things and stories this week. It's all down to 12 players."
And could you speak to the role the assistant captains had?
Bjorn: "When you start out on this journey, you look at the things that you can do differently, and you know, the modern golfer is a different guy today. They are very healthy. They are very focused on how they recover, how they look after themselves, and it's such a big part of their lives. They are also used to having a big group of people around them. I felt like I needed to do things that were for the players.
"When you go back over the years, the European team room has changed. I wanted to do this for them. I wanted it to be for these 12 players that they walked into an environment that they recognized and it was better or on par with the environment that they normally work in.
"So a lot of that work was what we wanted to do; I brought in some very good people, and I'm so thankful to those people that have worked so hard and so many hours to make this happen for these 12 guys.
You know, as vice captains, you couldn't have a stronger or better group of guys. I have all the information. They have been brilliant."