In the 37 years since continental Europeans first played for the Old World in the Ryder Cup, only three -- Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal -- have gone on to lead the side in the biennial contest against the United States. Now, however, a fourth name can be added to that short but illustrious list. According to a source close to the decision-making process, Thomas Bjorn will be named as Europe’s non-playing captain for the 2018 matches at Paris National in France.
The 45-year-old Dane, whose main rival for the job was former Open champion Paul Lawrie, certainly ticks all the boxes. A long-time chairman of the European Tour Tournament Committee, Bjorn has played in three Ryder Cups and has been an assistant captain four times. No one has more backroom experience.
During his 23-year professional career, the Silkeborg native won 15 times on his home circuit. His most recent victory came in December 2013 at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, a triumph that went a long way to ensuring his qualification for the European side that would clinch the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles almost a year later. Hampered by a persistent and recurring neck injury, he has played little in 2016. His last appearance was at September’s Italian Open, where he missed the cut.
A sometimes abrasive character -- he infamously threw a monumental tantrum when then-captain Ian Woosnam failed to pick him for the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club -- Bjorn has become more political as he has aged. And few on the European Tour are as tuned into the Old World circuit’s “jungle drums.” As Bjorn has pointed out on more than one occasion over the years, his service on the tournament committee was initially motivated by a strong desire to know what is going on behind the scenes.
Now he will be center stage. It will be fascinating to see how this complicated and intelligent individual -- a man who can be both the best and the worst interview in golf, depending on his mood -- copes with the task of regaining the Ryder Cup Europe lost earlier this year at Hazeltine National.
One thing is for sure: His tenure will not lack for interest and, in all likelihood, a bit of controversy.