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August 7, 2018
St. Louis, Missouri
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Very happy to be joined by 2018 European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. Thomas, welcome to Bellerive Country Club. Before we jump straight into Ryder Cup, what is the state of your game right now as you prepare to play in what will be your 17th PGA Championship.
THOMAS BJORN: Pretty nonexistent, to be honest. It's not much to talk about. I'm delighted to be here in a way I went out and played nine holes yesterday and it was like, who is this guy? I started hitting a couple of good shots and it's been awhile, certainly, but, yeah, I struggled a bit with injuries and focus on other things, but it's not about me.
I'm happy to be here, and I'm delighted that the PGA of America decided to invite me to play. It's a good place to be and being amongst the players and being in that locker room and being in the dining area and just chatting to people, and then once the gun goes on Thursday, we'll go out and try and give it a go.
But, yeah, mind is probably a little bit somewhere else but still trying to keep it together on the golf course, but not the easiest to do. But still enjoying it though.
JULIUS MASON: So we're less than two months away from the start of the 42nd Ryder Cup, I have to think you are pleased with the way your team is starting to form here, as we can see on the monitor. And my gosh, coming away from Carnoustie, I would think you were pleased with the way that some of your European potential team members played there.
THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, it's a great -- it's been building up greatly over a period of time. Obviously, to see Francesco winning The Open was a fantastic moment for Francesco, but when you sit on the sidelines as captain, you want to see guys do well in the big championships. I thought it was a good week for a lot of guys.
But we've known for the better part of the 12 months that we were going to have a very strong team, the way a lot of these guys have been playing. So as captain, it's exciting, it's exciting to see so many of them do well in big championships and winning golf tournaments and pushing themselves to their limits that they have.
So I sit in a good place. I'm happy with what's going on, but still a big fight going on for the last few places, and I'm happy to be in that position because you want people to push themselves right to the end, and then the 12 will be those 12 that's going to be. But it's a good position for European golf at the moment, and saying that, it's -- there's 24 guys that are going to be very much close to the top of the World Rankings going to the Ryder Cup in France. That's going to make for one hell of a Ryder Cup.
JULIUS MASON: Completely agree. As we look at our next screen which reflects the United States team standings right now, we know captain Jim Furyk will have a news conference in here Monday after this PGA Championship to talk about the eight players that make the United States team. As you look at this list, Thomas, any surprises there?
THOMAS BJORN: No.
World class players. But I've been part of Ryder Cups since 1997, and I've not gone into a Ryder Cup where the United States don't have a great team. So it doesn't come as a surprise to me or to the team that's going to play for the European side, but the American team is going to be great.
These guys know each other so well, they play together pretty much every week now, and both teams are going to relish the chance of having a go at each other in that Ryder Cup. But both teams are going to be great, and it's pretty much to go out and do the job on the golf course for both sides and then see who comes out on top.
JULIUS MASON: Let's take some questions, please.
Q. When we talked to Paul McGinley a couple weeks ago at St. Andrews, and he indicated that one of the biggest parts of the European team right now is that everybody is pretty much on form, which is unusual usually going into a Ryder Cup. And he made the exception of Sergio Garcia. A, could you talk about, in your situation as being a player in the past, have you ever seen a team so on form going into a Ryder Cup? And then, B, what are your thoughts about Sergio, who is actually not on form?
THOMAS BJORN: Yeah, I mean they are in general on form, but the team is -- the way the team is always shaping up, it's of guys that are generally coming into form that summer before the Ryder Cup. And so it can't really surprise you that the 12 best players in Europe or the 12 best players in the States are going to be guys that are playing well. So I don't see it as being a unique situation of guys being on form.
When you look at Sergio, people like to bring him up, and I've been -- it's been brought up to me a couple of times over the last couple of weeks. Well, I mean Sergio's a world class player and he's got some weeks ahead of him where he wants to go out and achieve things, but we also know that Sergio is the type of player that can turn it around in a week or two and then all of a sudden he goes on a great run of form. World class players, all of them goes in ups and downs, and the last few weeks he hasn't played his best, but he's still bobbling around, and there's still some good signs here and there, and he can turn it around very quickly.
But for general the team of 12, I'm delighted with it, but I'm not surprised that it's a team of guys on form. Is it the best team we ever had? Well, it's certainly a good team. Is the American team the best team they have ever had? Well, it's certainly a good team. But to try and compare them to other teams I think it's unfair, and also it's about playing this Ryder Cup with the team that you have.
So you can't just come into a Ryder Cup and say, oh, we have got a great team, we're going to win it. No, you're going to go in and do the job because the team that's standing on the other side is going to do a job. So it's about focus, it's about preparing and getting ready to play.
Q. With your relationship to Thorbjorn, you said that it might be tougher for him to get one of your picks. Did he just make it easier with a nice showing in Bridgestone?
THOMAS BJORN: He's a guy in good form. He's played some good golf this year. He won in Italy. He finished second in Germany, good showing at The Open, and then third last week. So he's on great form, and he's playing well. When you got somebody that is such a close friend and I spent so much time with him, I made it very clear to him from the beginning, you need to do something very special to make this team and preferably make the team on merit. Because I can't be in a situation where I feel like I'm doing anybody a favor because it's about bringing the 12 best players in Europe and who me and my vice captain thinks are the 12 best guys that are going to do the best job for us.
And for Thorbjorn it's a question of he's on great form at the moment, and he needs to just go out and keep continuing that form and try and make the team. I'm sure that's what is on his mind as well. To be honest, taking a slight step away from him at the moment just to let him concentrate on his golf because he's in a good place and he wants to try and achieve things individually, not just making a Ryder Cup team. So let him go out and play golf and enjoy that he's in a good place at the moment.
Q. Up at Carnoustie, Russell Knox said that playing with Tiger was like playing a mythical creature. I just wondered whether you had any concerns of anybody maybe intimidated if Tiger does make the team and also whether you think he'll be on the team.
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I mean, I haven't played a lot of golf with Tiger. Through his career, it's always a special thing to do to play -- I mean, I might put a few noses out of joint by saying, but in my opinion, the best player that's ever played the game. And that, for me, it was always a special place to be. I'm glad that this generation of players get to experience Tiger Woods, because that's what they need. They need to experience what he brings to the game, and they need to experience all that comes with the world of Tiger Woods.
Would Tiger make the team? Well, he can make the team on merit, I'm sure, by winning this week, and then it's up to Jim. I don't get involved in that. The only thing I would say is that if Tiger was included in the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup, it would be great for the game of golf because that's what he brings to the game, he just brings something special. The buzz that was around The Open Championship, the buzz that was around last week, with him being there and playing well, that just brings something extra to the game of golf. And that would be great for the Ryder Cup as well.
Q. Darren picked two experienced players and one rookie with his wild cards because he already had -- I think he already had five rookies on his team. You've got four rookies at the moment. Do you think you might have to do something similar, or do you think they're a different kind of rookie these days?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I mean, I don't like comparing players in that kind of way because that's unfair to the players that are there now and the players that were there then. But I look at some of the players that are in this team and that are rookies, they have done some pretty amazing things over the last two years. That stands them well going into a Ryder Cup.
I'm going to go with what I think is the 12 best players to do the job, and I keep saying that. I know you would probably like me to say more than that but that's what I'm going to go with. When you have four picks, it's difficult to pick four, just four experienced players. It's also, you got to balance out your team with what you have. So I look at it, and I go it's going to be tough. As a captain, I think you just want to have four that just stands out in front of you, but in this case that's not going to happen. There's going to be six or seven names that really deserves a lot of thought about if they should be on the team or not.
So that's the situation that's going to be there. But I don't look at what happened at Hazeltine. I look at what's in front of me and how we're going to make this team work the best possible way.
Q. Similar thing, to what extent if at all with regards to picks does previous Ryder Cup experience matter? Does it matter a lot? Would you disregard it? Would you take a slight look at it?
THOMAS BJORN: I think that depends on the player, which player it is, because you're going to have players that have Ryder Cup experience and experience of playing in the Ryder Cup and not done very well with it. And then you can have players that have the experience of playing the Ryder Cup and done extremely well with it. If you're going to make those choices, you probably end up going with the one that has done the best with it, that takes to the Ryder Cup in a special way.
But it still goes on back to what are these eight going to be and then how do you match it up with the four. It really is a puzzle, and I said this a few weeks ago, it's not one or two things that comes into the consideration of making your picks, there's 15, 20 things, different things, that plays in. When you start going through all of this, they all have their pros, and they all have their cons, and then you got to make a decision from there.
But always bear in mind that, if you are sitting in those places from 9 to 16, you've played some pretty decent golf for the last two years. So it's a pretty good position to be in as a captain, knowing that every single player there is going to bring something to the team. You're just going to have to make decisions when it comes down to it.
Q. Couple questions. As you look at the things you've achieved in your career, to have been the only player, I think, to play all four rounds with Tiger and beat him when he was at the top of his game, what did that tell you about yourself and what did you take from that?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, that was a special four days for me. I always look at my career and think that, without becoming too philosophical about it, where I come from and the situation I started out in, trying to get on TOUR and trying to win your first golf tournament, that was pretty much the goal and the end goal of a career. Obviously, your career and career goals change as it evolves in front of you. I had no dreams and no aspirations of becoming a player that could win as many times as I did and play in Ryder Cups.
I always know where I came from when I started, so when I look back at my career, I look at it with a guy who was 16 years old and I look at it and go, well, you way, way over achieved what you set out to do. But then I look at it and the moments I lived through my career and the player I became, and I probably think, well, you probably under achieved somewhere along the way and didn't quite achieve the things that you could have done.
But from where I came, it's been a great ride, it's been something that I really enjoyed doing, I loved every moment of it, but, yeah, when I finish my career, yeah, there will probably be some slight regrets looking back at it, but we all have a few of those, so.
Q. Early days, was there ever a player that you played with for the first time that you looked at as a mythical creature?
THOMAS BJORN: I played one round of golf with Jack Nicklaus, and that was certainly probably one of the most special moments of my life. I played a practice round with him at Muirfield Village, a pretty special place to do it as well.
Q. What can we expect from the venue when we get to France? Maybe a couple of strengths of the test that these players are going to face, and are there any weaknesses to the golf course?
THOMAS BJORN: This is a great golf course. It really is. We have always said, the guys that play in Europe, that this is one of our best venues. It's not a big, long golf course, I compare it a lot to THE PLAYERS and the way that, the way you have to think, and the way you have to play yourself around the golf course. That's kind of how I see the golf course.
Now, this is a golf course -- and you see he that every year we play there, the winning scores never really get away from anybody. It's never really low. It really is a thinkers golf course. It's a ball-striker's golf course as well. It just asks questions of everything in your game. People ask me about what are you going to do with the golf course, how are you going to -- you take 24 of the best players in the world and put them on a golf course, they're going to find a way around it. You can try and do all these things to make it better for your team.
These guys also of today, compared to maybe 20 years ago, these guy play the same golf tournaments, they play the same golf courses, they have the same strengths and weaknesses, and that's where it comes from. This golf course is what it is. It's always been set up a certain way and that's probably pretty much the way it's going to be set up for the Ryder Cup.
I would imagine the only thing is that I never played the golf course in September -- well, I did with Jim last year -- but otherwise, I haven't played tournament golf in September. We always play it in June, where it's a bit drier and it's a bit warmer. So we'll see what it will be like in September.
Q. You're known for always wanting to know what's going on and always thinking a lot about what's going on. Have you thought about losing? If you have, what have you thought? And if you haven't, however unpleasant a thought it might be, why haven't you thought about it?
THOMAS BJORN: No, I don't really -- I don't really see myself as a guy that looks at -- stands there and looks at winning or losing this Ryder Cup. My job is to try and prepare the best scenario and the best environment for 12 players to perform their best. And it's them winning it, and it's probably me losing it, but that's kind of my job. I don't see myself as a guy that would go into a Ryder Cup and make it all about what am I going to be like if we win it, what is it going to be like if we lose it.
It's all about preparing and doing the job that's right in front of me and leading into those three days. And I'll deal with winning or losing on Sunday night. Does that make sense?
Q. Envisioning that, is it if your preparation is not right, you might lose, so you must have thought about that as well?
THOMAS BJORN: No, I don't think about losing, I don't particularly think about winning because that's never really what I thought about in my career either. I think about the preparation and the job that's in front of me and that leads to a result. And that's kind of how I see my job. I don't see my job as trying to -- on the 1st of October, for me, it's over. And I'll be a winning Ryder Cup captain or a losing Ryder Cup captain, and I'm perfectly fine to deal with either/or.
But my job is over on the 1st of October. So it doesn't matter in what I do now. I can only do my preparations and only do the hard work now and not really think about what the outcome is because I can do the best job ever and we can lose because that's how good the other side is. And I could do a pretty bad job and those 12 players still goes out and plays their socks off and they win. And that's the nature of the Ryder Cup. But I'll try and do everything I can to make sure that they have an environment where they can play their best.
Q. Back to the golf course, is there anything in the golf course, the way you expect it to be set up or the design of the course or the players' histories on the golf course that will influence your decision on picks of players?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I think it goes back to what I said before. I have a list of things that I believe is -- I have to consider to make my picks, and obviously, performances on the golf course is one, and the other thing is does their game fit the golf course? But there are certainly things that comes into it, but it's among a long list of other things.
So this golf course is -- I honestly believe it's such a good golf course, and it puts such a big demand on it that when you take -- this is a golf course all the best players in the world will relish playing on because, when you're a great player and when you're at the top of your game, these are the type of courses you want to play where there's nothing left to chance. This is where you're going to have to go and play your golf. Play your golf and play your best to put in a good performance. And just remember, it's match play, it's not stroke play, so that also takes a lot of different things into consideration. But yeah, I don't look at this golf course in any other way than I would do anywhere else.
Q. Will you be looking at match play records in making those decisions as well?
THOMAS BJORN: Could put the same answer to that. If you saw the list, you kind of go that answers your question in terms of these are the things you look at. Obviously, you look at people, how have they performed in match play, but it's all about character, it's all about form, it's about so many things, and you have to take all those things into consideration.
Q. Going back to Sergio, if he needs a wild card, does he need to show you something over the next month, or have you got enough evidence with past record and him playing well on the Ryder Cup course in July, etcetera?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, Sergio is Sergio. And Sergio has so many qualities. So I know what the qualities are. Sergio won't be happy with where he's been with his game over the last few months, so I'm sure Sergio would like to go out and put in a few good performances because that will make him feel good about where he is. Knowing him very well, he tees it up every week to try and go and win golf tournaments, and I would like to see something from him.
But it still comes back to what's the makeup of the team, does he fit in there? If he doesn't make it on merit, does he fit in there with where he is going through all of those points that I put down of making my picks? So I have to wait and see. But I would like to -- for Sergio's sake, I would like to see him probably putting in a bit better performances than he has because he's such a quality player and he brings so much to a European team when he's on form.
Q. It's four years this week since Rory won a Major. How surprised are you that he hasn't added to his tally since then, and where do you think his game and his mind are right now?
THOMAS BJORN: Well, I think he's in a place where he's contending every week, and as a player, you go through spells where you don't quite get over the line, but he's still contending every week, and I admire his patience and I admire the way he goes about it because a lot of other players would feel it a lot more when you get yourself in that position and don't quite get over the line. So I admire the way he goes about it, and he is such quality, and he -- I watched him so much play over the last few months, and I just think he's in a place where it's going to go boom and then he's going to start winning a lot of golf tournaments again, and that's actually pretty good fun to watch.
He's going through that spell that all players go through at some stage where, yeah, not quite winning them but we're still there. And then eventually when he wins that one, then I think he'll just start rolling again because when you watch him play, I mean, as a golfer and a guy that's played golf since I was 3 years old, I'll pay money to go and watch him.
JULIUS MASON: Thomas Bjorn, ladies and gentlemen. Thomas, have a great week and thank you for coming in.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports