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May 22, 2018
SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance today, and welcome to what's a very special day along the journey towards the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, which will be held in the outskirts of Paris in just over four months' time.
Thank you to everyone who has joined us here at Wentworth, as we look forward to this year's BMW PGA Championship and welcome also to everyone who is joining us online through RyderCup.com, or indeed, through live TV broadcasts of this around the world.
The Ryder Cup is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world and we are indebted it our official partners who help us greatly in all aspects of the event. Therefore, I'd like to acknowledge Joern Plinke from BMW is here with us, and of course Pascal Grizot from the French Golf Federation who has been instrumental in helping us with everything that we have done along the journey to France in September. Gentlemen, thank you for your attendance today, and thank you for your continued support.
I'm delighted to be joined on stage by two very important gentlemen who need no introduction, the 2018 Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bj√∂rn and one of Thomas's vice captain, Robert Karlsson, assistant captain, and as I'm sure the eagle-eyed amongst you have spotted, we have some extra chairs alongside us on stage which might give you a little clue as to why we are here this afternoon.
But before we get into this, Robert, Thomas, there are 129 days to go till the first tee shot at Le Golf National. Are you getting a sense of the excitement building for the match?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Yeah, it's an interesting time. When you get that phone call 20 months out, and you feel like it's all the time in the world, it's passed quite quickly these 16 months to be honest, and now we get into the knitty and gritty of it, and the team is starting to shape up slowly, and there's a lot of stuff to happen over the summer.
But I'm really happy where I am, with my preparations. I feel like we are in a good place. I've had great support from the people around me, and we're now in a position where we really are starting to look forward to the matches. I spent a lot of time in Paris and at Le Golf National, and you only have to spend a bit of time in France to realise that there's a lot of people that are getting excited on that side of the Channel, as well, about The Ryder Cup.
It's all shaping up nicely. I'm all in a good place with it. I'm now coming to some big moments, and this being one of them today, announcing vice captains. But at the moment, I'm really happy with where I am.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thomas, I know you keep a close eye on the rankings. This is an important week where it's worth 1.5 points on both lists, of course, finishing at your tournament in Denmark. Give us your thoughts on that.
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: I'm a strong believer in form is a very key thing for The Ryder Cup. I believe that people that play well from Wentworth all the way through to when the Ryder Cup Matches start, they should be in that team. You want to have people that are excited about their golf, excited about where they are with their game, and these 1.5 points really gives guys a chance to get right into that team, and everybody that's on form from Wentworth onwards, they will have a chance of making the team.
I think it's important that the last four or five months golf leading into the Ryder Cup is the one thing that's going to stand you up and make your points when you play The Matches. So looking forward to see how it's going to unfold this week, and over the summer.
SCOTT CROCKETT: A lot of contenders are going to be in the team that are here playing this week. Are you going to have a special eye on them this week, although you're playing, yourself?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Well, I look at it in a different way. I look at it and go, you know, they are individual sportsmen. They go and play their individual games, and if I asked the 20 best players in Europe or the 20 best players in America, I think their eye on the prize is for the European players this week and then the next eye is on the U.S. Open Championship.
The Ryder Cup for players take care of itself if you're successful. You become part of those teams if you're successful in your individual achievements, and that's a massive thing for me, those players, all of them, to go out and achieve individually on the golf course. That's what they do week-in and week-out and that's what their focus is on.
The Ryder Cup Team will shape up and it will take care of itself. I will be watching, and I've said at the beginning, it was probably a list of 60 players, and now we can probably cut it down to 25, 30 players, and every week, it gets cut down a little bit.
But I'll watch from afar. I'll watch with interest. I like what I'm seeing in European golf at the moment, with our experienced players, but also with a lot of the youth that's coming through. I just watch it from afar and let them try and achieve what they can do on the golf course because I think that's what's going to stand us the best if they achieve great things in their individual tournaments.
So it's all about having tournament victories. It's all about having that experience of how to win. That's the only way you're going to win Ryder Cup points, as well. Let them go out there and play, and then Ryder Cup will take care of itself when we get to it.
SCOTT CROCKETT: I think it's now time we filled the chairs on the stage. So Mr. Captain, over to you.
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Well, obviously for a captain, you need to have good people around you and you start thinking about who can be in that team around you.
Robert was a very obvious choice for me early on. Great friends. We've gone through our careers together, even all the way back from amateur golf, and it was a choice that was very easy for me to make in that whole process.
But now we get down to where the team is taking shape, and we need a few more men on this team behind the team, and it's a great honour for me to introduce these four guys that are all great friends, but they are also very valued members of The European Tour and they have been very valued members of Ryder Cup Teams. They have got 26 Ryder Cup appearances between them. They won 56 Ryder Cup points. They are major champions. They are former world No. 1s. But they, more than anything, knows what it takes to win Ryder Cup teams.
So I would like to introduce all four of my next Ryder Cup vice captains. The first being, Luke Donald, the next one being P√°draig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, and I think he's heard this one before, last but not least, Lee Westwood.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, Thomas.
Gentlemen, welcome. Welcome to Team Europe. Just want to start by just getting an initial reaction from the four of you and then Robert.
Lee, let's start with you. You've been a stalwart in European colours over the last ten Ryder Cups. Your thoughts on taking on a different role this time around.
LEE WESTWOOD: Yeah, obviously I've been on ten Ryder Cup sides, but never been involved with the role sort of behind the scenes, and as a vice captain.
So when Thomas asked me to take that role, I was obviously delighted and jumped at the chance. Myself and Thomas have known each other many years, since the mid '90s, we're friends, and you know, anything I can do to have a bit of input and help, I will gladly do, and it will be nice to see him take on his role as captain and support him as much as I can.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks, Lee.
Graeme, obviously Europe are trying to regain The Ryder Cup trophy and nobody knows better than you the special feeling of delivering the winning point. What do you think you can bring to the backroom setup?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Like Lee said, first time being involved in the backroom staff of a Ryder Cup, you know, have a huge amount of respect for Thomas and all he's accomplished in his career, and really excited about the opportunity to help Team Europe stop the U.S. momentum.
I think my experience at Paris National, the four Ryder Cups I've played, have been the greatest moments of my career. You know, just excited to take on a slightly different view of things, and obviously help the 12 players be as ready as they possibly can to regain this trophy that we all care so much about.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you, Graeme.
P√°draig, of the five of you, you're the only one with previous vice captain experience. Are you looking forward to utilising that experience in four months' time?
P√ĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah, for sure. I think after having been vice captain twice, I realise how much work is behind the scenes in supporting the captain.
We all know that the captain, the teams are so well balanced nowadays that the captain can make all the difference, and he needs all the support he can get, and there is a lot going on during the week.
So it's nice to be back again to do it. You know, I've known Thomas since 1996 when he beat me for Rookie of the Year, so we have had very close careers over the years. And everything, we've had a meeting or two now, and everything I've heard so far really is on the right track. We like what we are hearing for Thomas, and it looks like it's all heading in the right direction.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Luke, it's a tremendous show of support for the captain here, perhaps none you are injured and not playing at the moment. That epitomises I think how much support there is for Thomas out there, isn't it?
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I've been in constant conversation with Thomas since he was announced as captain, just playing it clear that I'd love to be involved in any way I can to help Team Europe get the Cup back, and obviously I'm on a little bit of an injury, but we're here for The Ryder Cup, and I'm really excited to help in any way I can, and do what I can.
So it's really fun when Thomas approached me and asked me to be a part of this, and I look forward to using some of my experience and helping in anyway we can in getting that cup back on European soil.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Robert, obviously you've been in the vice captaincy limelight for a year now. Is it nice to have somebody alongside you to share the workload?
ROBERT KARLSSON: Yeah, finally we have a team now of backroom staff, and it's really good for me. I've had a year of a little bit of warm up, but it feels like now we kind of start for real for me, and I've learned a lot over the last year but now it's a team and it kind of feels like it's starting for real.
Q. Is there a contingency plan, because there's some pretty good players up here. If one of these boys happen to make the team, and that's not beyond the realm of possibility. Do you have a contingency plan to replace them?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Well, this is a conversation we've had in this group, and every player that sits at this table is capable of making the team.
You know, if that happens, that's a very positive problem because these guys as players on the golf course, what they can achieve as players, if they are in that form and they do those things over the summer that they have been able to do in the past in their career, then you want them in The Ryder Cup Team, and then we'll deal with that problem when we get to it.
Opportunities arose for me to have these guys on the backroom team, and when I looked at these players, I thought, these are the people I want to have there. They bring all the right things to the team and they bring everything I believe in; and I took that chance now and I strongly believe that it's better to have the team together now.
All the preparation we can do together from now to The Ryder Cup is extremely important for those 12 players that are going to play, because it's all about them and it's all about what they can achieve, and we can lead and we can talk and we can do all the things that we can do to help them. But if one of these guys makes the team, I'll be proud to have them on that team and I'll wish them all the best of luck with that.
Q. Distinguished a band as they are, it seems to be getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Did you say, did you lead me to believe that you were told that you can have five, and by implication, does that mean you wanted five? And how did you arrive at five and what are you going to give them all to do?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Well, we've had five for the last few. I think at one moment in Wales we had six I think going at one stage. So I think P√°draig touched on it; so much goes on that week.
First of all, there's four games on the golf course the first two days, morning and afternoon, and it's nice to have eyes and ears on each match. But then there's four guys sitting out, and it's nice to have some eyes and ears with them, as well.
The captain, from speaking to past captains and watching it four times as a vice captain, you feel like the week goes so quickly past them and they can't be everywhere. So you've got to have people that you trust 100 per cent, that you believe in, that have the same values as you for what we are going to do that week.
Five is for me the right number, but I think when I have spoken to past captains, they would also say to you that that is the right number; that is the number that works. It's a number that gets everything done for the week, but you need to have good people in those roles.
We have a history of having good people in those roles, but I'm really, really happy with the people I have in the roles for this time.
Q. You were saying that you could narrow the team now to 25 or 30 players. Have you done the math with the new points system, how many points have been played for and how many are still to be played for?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: I've got my stats people here (turning to Robert).
I look at it a way of going -- and I've always looked at it that way. The team shapes up slowly and quietly, and then from Wentworth onwards, it really does take a huge step in who is going to make the team, and now it's a question of people standing up and being, you know, wanting to make that team and play golf over the summer.
Have I looked and say, how many points have they played for and how many points are going to be played for, but I have a very, very good indication from everybody around me and people who works on that, what it's going to take to make the eight, four on the World Points list and the four on the European Points list.
So I have a good indication of what that number is. So when you start looking at who is probably already in the team and who is very close, I've got good probabilities of what that team is going to look like.
And then, as always, the last two, three, four spots, that can change, and that's the way it should be and that's why the system is the way it is. I want people to go out and play golf with someone. I want them to get in. I want to see a Thomas Pieters make the team with the run that he made the last time. I wanted him to make it into the team and not having to use a pick on him; the way he was playing at the end of the qualification period.
I think that's important, that those guys at the end that are playing very well, they can actually make the team instead of having to use a pick on them.
Q. With this experience you've got here, and you talk about the jobs that they are going to v but what, for you makes a good vice captain when you've done the job so many times? What's the key thing when it comes to that week?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: Well, the one thing I always prided myself on when I went in as a vice captain is I left my ego at the door.
As an individual sportsman, you have an ego, and so you should have; to achieve things, you've got to be very special, and we all have it in one way or the other. We all have some sort of ego but when you go into that week, it's about 12 players, and it's not about the six of us. It's about those 12 players, and we are there to work for them.
For them to perform and try and win this trophy back -- we know what we are up against. We know we are up against a strong opposition and we have got to be at our best to win The Ryder Cup back to Europe, but we have to do that together for those 12 guys.
So once you walk through the door, it's about them 12, and there's nothing -- there's nothing in it for us if we don't have that trophy on Sunday night.
Q. Question for Lee, and anybody else who wants to answer it. Obviously you said you jumped at the chance to be part of the backroom team, but is it with slightly mixed emotions when you get that call from Thomas, because it maybe implies that you might not be making the team as a player?
LEE WESTWOOD: No, not really. You know, I'm of an age now where my chances of making the team go down quite significantly, and it's something that I've always been interested in, having played so many, but never been on the other side of it and seeing what goes on.
You know, I was keen to see that kind of angle to it, and like I said, when Thomas asked me, I jumped at the chance. You know, it's special to be in a Ryder Cup. Playing in a Ryder Cup is very special. But to be involved with it, as well, is obviously very special, as well, and something I want to do.
So you know, he's pulled together a good team here with a lot of knowledge and experience, many Ryder Cups between us, and hopefully at the right times, we can give the right or the correct words to somebody less experienced than us that might be playing their first one, and hopefully not say the wrong things at the wrong times, as well.
We have to consider ourselves as backroom team and psychologists and all sorts that week. You know, Thomas is right. He needs people with experience, and that's what he's got.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Anyone want to add to that?
You've said it all, Lee. You've said it all, son.
LEE WESTWOOD: That's why I'm here.
Q. I think you're in a fortunate position that there's a lot of great candidates you could have chosen from, five up on the table there. Must have been great to make those phone calls, but were there any phone calls that were a little bit more difficult to make to guys who perhaps hoped they might be getting a vice captaincy spot?
THOMAS BJ√ĖRN: No, not really to be honest. I was quite set on what I wanted to do, and you know, I think my own experience as a vice captain, when you get that phone call, and it happens over a phone call maybe the decision is made but it also happens through conversations prior to that.
I had those conversations with these guys, and this was the route I wanted to go. I've had a lot of conversations with a lot of people, and I'm sure, you know, when you get to a stage in your career, we all want to be involved because that's what the DNA of this tour is; that we would like to be involved.
But there's five that can be vice captains, and these were the five. I think in these roles, people are very accepting of that's what the captain wanted and that's how he felt about it. But I take advice from a lot of people: You know, past captains, players I've played around.
I speak to so many people on this tour, and my ears, they are big by nature, but they are also big by the way I listen to everybody on this tour and their opinions about things, and then I get my opinions from that. Just because you're not sitting at this table doesn't mean that your voice is not heard. There will be things from other people that won't be there that week that will impact how we do things.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports