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January 23, 2018

Thomas Bjorn

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thomas, welcome.

THOMAS BJÖRN: Thank you.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Great to see you in Dubai, as always. I suppose you should be starting with a bit of reflection over the last two weeks. EurAsia Cup obviously was a great success for you. Must have seen a lot that you liked, and obviously last week, the results for European golf was fantastic, and then played a bit of golf yourself.

THOMAS BJÖRN: Yeah, I thought EurAsia Cup was important in so many ways in getting 12 guys together that all has a great potential of being in Paris in eight, nine months time now. I thought to get to spend some time there, I look at players and I know what a lot of them stand for and.

But any time anybody gets in that environment of a team and being part of a team, it's always a little bit different. There's a bit of different reaction. I thought those 12 really, really got on well and they were there for each other in every aspect. And they went Saturday night, we were one point behind and they certainly didn't want to come to Abu Dhabi having lost it. They were very keen to go out and show what they were as individuals but also as a team, and they did that on Sunday. I didn't have to do a lot. They were very motivated and very keen, and as a group, as the week progressed, they grew together.

I thought that's something I'll look back at and see as a good sign of where we are with European golf. They could also be there, most likely it won't be those 12 but it will be a couple of others that will have a few words to say about that.

But that's always a good thing, and that's a sign that there's strength. When you wake up on Monday morning and Sergio has won in Singapore and Tommy has won in Abu Dhabi and Jon has would be on the PGA TOUR, you can't help but thinking that European golf is in very good hands right now. There are some great players. But then you look at what 12 you've got to be up against and American golf is also in great hands at the moment. That's what's ahead.

For my own golf last week, it was a pleasant surprise to play four rounds of golf I have to say. The weekend was nice. I felt like I did play some good stuff and I stayed very patient, and it was nice to get my brain a little bit away from thinking about team environment, and I think that happens on weekends more than it does Thursday, Friday.

On weekends, I feel like I actually got into my own mind a little bit, and it was kind of refreshing a little bit to get away from just thinking about other players and try and focus a little bit on myself.

Then you get here yesterday, and I saw Sergio yesterday, and you start speaking to guys. I had a chat with Rory this morning. Just have good chats, and then your mind starts going back into that team and Ryder Cup stuff.

But in general, I feel like the last couple weeks have been a really, really good experience from a captain's side but it's also been a great experience to see what the players are. I think there's a lot of happiness around. There tends to be a lot more happiness around in January, but that has to do with scheduling and playing a lot of golf. They seem to be very happy and very keen and very motivated. That's all I can ask for, really.

Q. I take it the number of players on the EurAsia Cup that did well in Abu Dhabi last week shows you how determined they are to get off to a good start to the season and cement positions on the team.
THOMAS BJÖRN: I said it on Sunday: You have ten guys finishing in the Top-20 out of those 11 that played, and Rafa finished, I don't know, he finished 40th or something and Alex wasn't there. But that's a strong performance. You know, they used the EurAsia Cup well. They used the confidence they built from the week of where their golf was. It just gives me a lot of belief that we are in a good place.

Now, where that will leave us in eight, nine months' time, you know as well as I do that the golfing world moves and it goes like a yo-yo; people go up-and-down, and where it leaves us at that time, we'll see. But where we are right now, I feel like there's a lot of good things to build on for a lot of these players.

The obvious ones we keep talking about, but then you look at how guys like Ross has played; that he hasn't won a golf tournament the last four or five months is a bit strange with the golf that he's played. Tyrrell is playing well and Alex Levy stood up really well. He had a tough start to the EurAsia Cup, and you see his head was down about that, and then he had a good experience in the singles and he brought good play into last week. You just see these players grow with what's ahead of them and they are desperate to be there.

But the good thing about them is they go out on the golf course and do the job. They don't just talk about being there. They go out and play good golf. It will be a difficult team to make. It really will be because you have to play some really good stuff from now on to make that team.

Q. How much of a boost was it seeing Rory look so refreshed and rejuvenated both mentally and physically?
THOMAS BJÖRN: Well, he hasn't missed a gym session, has he, when you look at him. I think we make a lot out of Rory and we talk a lot about him. He's a wonderful golfer and he obviously struggled with his injuries last year, felt it was difficult and he was always feeling like he was probably a little bit behind when he got to tournaments.

He showed up last week -- I had a good chat with him at DP World championship, I saw him there one night and I saw him last week; and to see him fit and healthy and desperate to play golf. That's how you want to see him, and in that position, he's very dangerous as a golfer, that's for sure.

Q. Just expanding on the same thing, Monty was in here earlier and he said from --
THOMAS BJÖRN: I bet you enjoyed that, didn't you (laughter).

Q. Looks to him like we are on the cusp of another special era for European golf with the emergence of Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood and the likes of Rory.
THOMAS BJÖRN: Yeah, but there's five, six, seven Americans and a few others from around the world that's got a word to say about that. They also are very special players. But there's no doubt that these players at a young age feel like they can consistently compete for majors.

I thought Tommy's performance on Sunday was major-like. I thought to go and shoot 30 in those conditions when you have to; you know, we can all go and shoot 30 when you're lying 39th and you move to 14th. But he had to do that. He was trailing. He had to go out on that back nine and do that. And he's in a great place.

I just think when you look at them as a group of players, the thing is as an individual, they have so much drive to achieve things but as a group they will push each other on as well. I think that will stand them really well individually.

You know, then when we get together as a group, then we've got other things to do, but when I just look at them from the outside and what they want to do for those 103 weeks when they play individual golf, well, having guys around you that push you a long, that you want to beat, that you want to, that's a great environment to be in. That's being 12 years old at a golf club; that's being on a national team; of being on a tour.

If you are surrounded by players that are equally as good as you and push you along, then you're going to achieve more. That's where it became extremely difficult in the Tiger era when he was at his best because people felt like no matter how well I play, he's going to be better than us.

So it's difficult to have that feeling of, if I play my best, I'm going to win. There was one guy, if he played A minus, he was still going to win. But this group of guys, they are very equal. They are very equal in the way they play their game, so they will keep -- you know, and that pushes them along in training, in practise, in eating correctly and doing all the right things.

And when you look at them today compared to my time, these are athletes, all of them, full-on athletes. When you look at Rory, you look at Jason Day, you look at Dustin Johnson, you look at them as individuals, they are full-on athletes. That's the way they live their lives.

So they will push each other and I think golf will benefit from that. I think we have seen a lot of good stuff, but I think that the best is yet to come.

Q. When you're looking at these guys coming through and the feeling that there's a good chance that they are going to be on your team, how tempting is it for you to be formulating potential partnerships in your brain, or do you have to steer yourself away from that, because it's so far out?
THOMAS BJÖRN: You know, you can't make up your mind about anything. I think one of the things is to make your mind up about certain things too soon, because as I said, things change and things move. The thing about a team in golf is that when one guy comes in, it changes the whole circle in that team and things can then move around a whole time just because it was this guy instead of that guy that came into the team. So you've got to be very careful that you make up your mind about exactly what you're going to do.

But you'll have an idea of who individuals will work with, but you prefer them to have more than one that they can work with. You'd like them to have two or three where you can see that that could work or that could work. Because form will change and you know, personnel will change.

So I don't want to get ahead of myself in that, and I've said all along, I don't sit and write down 12 names I want to have as my team. Because no matter how many times I guessed, that probably will never be the 12.

Q. Is there anything in particular that you learned about yourself as a captain in the EurAsia Cup that you perhaps didn't appreciate?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I learned probably more about myself than anything else that week. You know, how to deal with the -- they are so different. They come completely how they want to work a week like that. You ask 12 of them and you get 12 different answers. Some want to practise, some want to play, some don't want to do anything, some just want to go to the gym. There's so many differences.

I learned a lot about how I positioned myself with the 12 of them. How to deal with the experienced guys. It's easy to sometimes feel like, well, they know what they are doing, so I'll spend my time over here with the new guys here, but then they (the former) feel a little bit cold.

So you've got to be with them all, and just how I position myself within the team, I'm in no position. I keep saying this, I'm in no position to tell them what to do. It's not my job to tell them how to play golf and how to practise and where to play and what to do. That is not my job.

My job is to make sure that I create an environment for them where they can perform at their best, and that I do through conversations with them and with people around, and that's what I spend most of my time doing.

I want to play some golf and I want to practise, and they know I'm there. But I don't want to stick my finger in the middle of their lives and go, well, this is what I think you should do. Who am I to tell Rory what to do? You look at him and you go, I've got four majors and you've got zero (laughter) work out the math from there.

Q. The vice captains, when do you envisage finalising that?
THOMAS BJÖRN: I'm pushing that back to be honest, I have a good idea where I want to go but I also want people to play golf and enjoy. McGinley said something right to me and said it all along: Play golf. Enjoy playing golf. It's the best thing you can do, and all those things will take care of themselves, and I'm in no rush.

I have Robert, who I spent a lot of time with, a lot of good conversations with, but to make -- to interfere in people's lives as a golfer, you know, they need to get a chance -- because as soon as they get that head on, I know how I was myself, as soon as I got that hat on of being involved and speaking to the captain all the time, your mind goes away from your golf and I don't need to put them through that now. So it won't be -- I can't see anything in that before Wentworth.


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