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September 27, 2018

Thomas Bjorn

Guyancourt, France

CLARE BODEL: Welcome back to the Media Centre, Thomas. You've just come to us from the Opening Ceremony. The 2018 Ryder Cup is now officially open. I'm sure that the men and women out here are going to have a few questions for you about the pairings, but can you give us a little insight into how you and the players are feeling now that it's go time, essentially?

THOMAS BJÖRN: I said for a long time this week that we'd be ready to go, and this is it. We stand on a night of this starting, and I felt like on Tuesday, we were dragging our feet a little bit and getting to know everything. Then the last two days have been just fantastic. There's been an unbelievable mood in the camp. They have been great on the golf course and played with each other out there and had a nice time, and the team room's been brilliant.

We stand here and all is good. The great thing about tonight is that I get a night's sleep before the matches, because I think that speech has been playing on my mind for awhile. So I'm looking forward to actually get to bed tonight, and then we go tomorrow.

There's a wonderful mood in this group of guys. They are really good with each other. Yeah, we're ready to go.

Q. We can all try and analyse what you were thinking, but perhaps it would be easiest just to ask you, how did you come to these four pairings?
THOMAS BJØRN: Well, I think I ran into one of these problems around that everyone says is a positive problem; that everyone is playing well and everyone is feeling good.

I've looked at these guys and I think there's obviously the obvious guys out there in the sense that people that you would all expect to be there, and then there's a new guy in every group. They have been just itching to go, especially Thorbjørn and Jon and Tyrrell, they are just really desperate to get out on that golf course. I wanted to get them out there.

Tommy, Tommy is a different guy in the way that he's won around here, and he's been real quality for the last couple of years. He's very calm and relaxed. They are not going to give a lot away with emotion, those two. But they are great together and they feel really comfortable and good.

This is what we go with tomorrow morning, and it's a marathon. It really is. I just believe very much in this team. I believe in them as a group. I believe in them as individuals, and I just really felt like this was what I saw. This is what we saw in the group of six of us, and when we sat down yesterday and today and went through it, you know, it very much came to us like this. We feel it gives us a lot of options, as well, going forward, but delighted with the way that it turned out this evening.

Q. Do you intend to play everyone tomorrow?
THOMAS BJØRN: I've said along the way, you have to wait and see. It's one of those things that your dream is probably to play everyone, but we'll have to wait and see.

There's so many things that can happen in the space of an hour, an hour and a half in a Ryder Cup. I've not locked that down at all, but we'll wait and see. It's certainly a strong group of guys that are sitting on waiting to get out to play. We'll have to wait and see.

Q. You mentioned so many guys are chomping at the bit, but a lot has been made about Jon Rahm's energy, especially, coming into this week. How much of that was a motivation in your decision to put him out in that first group?
THOMAS BJØRN: Yeah, but Jon's a guy that, you know, he wants to be out there. He wants to be -- he wants to have a responsibility. He wants to feel like he's in the sense of what is, and you know, it's not every rookie in the world, you take and put them on the first tee in the first match of The Ryder Cup, but this one is pretty special, and not talking about him as this week, but just in general. He's just a pure quality and competitive, and just want to be out there.

So we'll send him out tomorrow morning with probably one of the best players or the best player in the world, arguably, at the moment. That's a pretty good place to be for a rookie. I would look forward to it if it was me (smiling).

Q. Just to clarify your position, you said that you're not sure if you will or won't have somebody sit out. Could you give us the specific reasons why you wouldn't have somebody sit out, or why you would have someone sit out?
THOMAS BJØRN: There's a lot of things that can happen overnight. There's all sorts of -- people wake up in different ways. You know, at the moment, we are in a good place with all 12. We felt all of us when we sat down that we've seen so many good things over the three days and we're happy with where everybody is, and that's a good reason to play them all, but that doesn't mean that you are going to play them all.

So many things can happen tomorrow that can be -- guys that don't feel right or there can be guys that are just a little bit off, and then might be better to wait until Saturday.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. I've got my plans in my head about what I want to do, but I've said all along as a captain, you've got to be aware that they move.

Q. What final message will you give to your players tomorrow morning before sending them out, and now that we're here, how confident are you that you're all in?
THOMAS BJØRN: This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to stand up and follow in the footsteps of all the great players of this continent, and that's the opportunity they have.

Some of them have a long-standing Ryder Cup career and history with this event, and some of them are just setting out on a new chapter in their lives. But for all of them, it's an opportunity to add to what their golf career is about.

I've always said one thing about the game of golf: Players, they stand up and they are counted for what they do in the greatest events in the world. But legends are made in this event. That is where the public comes around them and can do so much for their careers. It's an opportunity to go out there and be the best that you can be on a grand stage.

Q. Is Henrik not playing in the morning at all linked to his injury or fitness situation?
THOMAS BJØRN: No. Has nothing to do with that at all.

Q. He spoke yesterday about tiredness.
THOMAS BJØRN: You know, we find ourselves in a -- for our guys being at home, at a home match, it's difficult in a way that it's a bit tiring. You're doing a lot of things. For these guys, there's a lot of media stuff from their home nations. So they are living a home match but they actually travelled to an away match from their homes; they live in America. So they get a little bit compounded here the first couple of days with extra stuff, so they feel it a little bit more. They feel the jet-lag and then they have also got to do all those things that come with being at home.

There's a little bit of a difference. As I said, on Tuesday, they were dragging their feet a little bit, all the guys that came from America, and that's natural because they have been over there for so long, and it's just a little bit of traveling. But that doesn't mean that -- Henrik is a guy that, you know, you can use him five times, you can use him four times or you can play him two times and he'll stand up and do what he can do best in whatever position he's put in in the team.

I've known Henrik for so many years, and it's not like you walk up to him and say, okay, you're not playing tomorrow morning, and he looks at you like you don't know what you're doing; he just goes, okay, I'll go with that, and you know, we go with it as a team. He's a brilliant guy to have in that room because he just does what is best for the 12.

Q. During the Opening Ceremony, you had very strong words about the unity of Europe and the pride of being a European. Was it something to get your players even more fired up or more of a personal issue you wanted to share?
THOMAS BJØRN: No, but I think -- you know, I think -- I'm a European, and I play on The European Tour and have done for most of my life. I've been focused solely on that tour, and I'm very proud of that, and I'm very proud of this part of the world as a continent. I'm very proud of what we are.

And I always feel like when I get into a Ryder Cup Team, it brings the best out in all Europeans. That is what we are. We are cross nations. We have different cultural backgrounds. We believe in different things, but when we get on that team, we are proud of being European. It's forgotten that we have so much in common.

That's my opinion. Not everybody shares that opinion, but that's my opinion. I felt like I wanted to portray what we are as a team to the people that were watching.

Q. It was a very interesting speech, you referred to the unity of Europe and you referred to the flag. It was almost as if you were deliberately addressing the people of the U.K.
THOMAS BJØRN: Not at all. Not at all. Just remember one thing: I've lived 15 years of my life in England, and England is my home and I love the country. I love living there. I have an English girlfriend and it is my home, and it would probably be very difficult for me to see any time in the future coming out of that country.

So I love everything about that country. But I am a European, and I'm Danish by birth, and I believe in the things that I believe in, but that doesn't mean that I believe in the European Union or not. I'm not addressing the people of the United Kingdom in any way, shape or form in this. I'm addressing what we are in that European Team room. And trust me, if you look at all of the United Kingdom players that are in this team, they wore that today (yellow ribbon) because this week that's what they represent.

As I said in the speech, as well, that, for us, represents the boundaries of Europe this week. It doesn't represent a European Union.

Q. Ian Poulter obviously has a phenomenal Ryder Cup record and he was one of your wild cards. Can you just speak about, was it a difficult decision to leave him out, and also perhaps Sergio, another one of your wild cards?
THOMAS BJØRN: Well, they are all difficult to leave out, especially guys that have played in so many. I'm quite sure that you'll see them on the golf course at some stage before Sunday. They fall into the group like anybody else, and you know, they know what they are and what they represent, and what they can go out and deliver, and that's -- it's all about building for the whole week. I believe in that strongly, but as I said before, I had some guys that are really, really keen on getting out on the golf course, and they have never been here before. I felt like it was really important to get them out there because I believe in them and I trust them.

And then there are some guys that had to sit out. It's the worst part of being Ryder Cup Captain; it's the picks, and it is leaving guys out for the matches, but that's what makes this event so great. I mean, you've done nothing but predict in the paper what was going to happen in the two teams, and you will all be making your comments if we are right or wrong on what we did.

You know, but that's what makes it great. It creates stories and it creates people's interest. We don't go into a room and just draw names out of a hat. I sit with five extremely experienced vice captains, and we have a conversation. I make the decisions in the end, but, we don't just come up with it for fun. We go with what we see and what we feel and what we think is right for this team.

Q. You've just outlined your faith in the rookies playing tomorrow. Do you think picking them ahead of some experienced names will give them an extra confidence boost?
THOMAS BJØRN: You know, when I played in my first match in 1997, I didn't play till Saturday, and it was really, really difficult, and that was not a question that when Seve said to me, "You won't play," I wasn't playing on Friday, wasn't something where I got upset or disappointed in the way that I wanted to just learn everything about The Ryder Cup, and I wanted to be part of that team.

But as you reflect on it afterwards, you work so hard for so long to get in the team, and you want to be out on that golf course, and that's how you are as a player. When you look at this group of guys that's come into this team, you know, they are really hard competitors, and I believe in them so much. And I wanted to give them that responsibility of standing up and go out there and enjoy it.

You don't want to get yourself in positions where you're forced into do something. We go with this tomorrow morning, and I'm happy with the way it's come out.

You know, I just don't think there's any weaknesses on this team, and that kind of makes me really happy, but it also makes the decisions very difficult.

Q. Just wondering about the synergies that brought you to put Rory and Thorbjørn out together tomorrow.
THOMAS BJØRN: Well, they both wanted to play with each other. That's a good start. (Laughter).

And then, you know, you've got -- if you asked the guys in our team, "Who do you want to play with," I mean, Rory is not far away, is he, from most of their lips. It's a pretty easy choice.

But Thorbjørn is a player -- they get on really well, and they spend a lot of time together. The thing about Thorbjørn is, that a lot of people, you would think, oh, is that a big thing for him. He'll go out in that match and he's really, really -- he'll take it on and really enjoy it.

That's where he comes from in most things. He never ceases to amaze me in the way he approaches things. He's fallen into this group, right in the middle of it. He's the only one without a girlfriend or wife this week and he's still falls into the middle of it in a great way. He never sits in a corner and does his own thing, and he's right in the middle of the group. That's great to see from a rookie. He doesn't come in with big arm movements. How can you not like him? He's a pretty good guy and a pretty special person. They are both really keen on it, and once they were keen on it, I started looking at it.

Now, I haven't spoken to both of them for awhile about this, and I started looking, and it turned out, the way they had been playing and how they are feeling on the golf course; they really look forward to it.

And as a pairing, that's a great start. If you want to play with each other and you look forward to getting out on that golf course together -- but you know, then you are off to a good start. There's no guarantees that any golfer of these 24 is going to go out and play great tomorrow, but you've got to have all the framework to give them an option to go and play great.

Q. In the position you're in of blooding rookies early on, would you be satisfied coming out of the morning on equal terms?
THOMAS BJØRN: Yeah, I think you always got to look at any session and say, if you're not losing the sessions, you know, it's not too bad, but that also depends on where you are. I think, you know, you'd like to be ahead after any session, but you know, when I look at these matches, you know, they are just going to -- they could be as tight as anything, all four of them, and it's impossible for me to predict what's going to happen.

But I'm very focused on my side of what I put out, and not so much focused on what they are up against in the sense that our eight players are going out tomorrow morning and they are going out to play as good as they can, and we'll see what the results are. Golf is a funny game, but this is what I trust and believe in for tomorrow morning.

Q. Having been part of this Ryder Cup for so many years in different roles, on the eve of the matches, where does most of the anxiety come from, and is it any different as a captain than it was as a player?
THOMAS BJØRN: Yeah, it is, because as a player, you're worried about how you're playing the golf course and where you are with your game and how that's going to stand up.

As a captain, you're worried about how 12 players are with their game and how their game is going to stand up. That's just the way it is. And then there's so much other stuff going on as a captain, so your mind is always thrown to different kind of things.

You go through all that stuff that comes with it, so as a captain, your anxiety or your anticipations come from places where you're not used to, so you don't know, you don't recognise those feelings. You don't recognise when they come. As a player, you know exactly when you're going to be nervous. You know exactly how you're going to react to it. You know exactly, you're going to -- as the week progresses, you're going to go to bed one or two nights where maybe for an hour or two you think about how you're going to play the golf course. Thursday, you go to bed, you're nervous and you wake up Friday morning and you're even more nervous.

We're used to dealing with that situation and you know the walk to the first tee, what that's going to be like. But as a captain, you've never done that before and you're walking into all these new situations, and you get nervous about things in the week where you think, I don't know what I'm nervous about, but there's obviously something in my mind where you need to think about what that is and you start to outline what it is and you deal with it, but you're finding new things as you go along. But that's part of the fun, I guess.

Q. What would surprise you tomorrow?
THOMAS BJØRN: What would surprise me? I think I learned to not expect anything but surprises in this. It would surprise me if it was quiet on the first tee (laughter).

Q. Would you give an example, please, of how you use the data, when you listen to data and when you listen to your gut with the pairings?
THOMAS BJØRN: I've talked about all the way through my captaincy, that going into pairings, and there's the same with the picks, you go with certain elements on the data and certain elements is how I feel and how people around me feel in making those decisions.

You know, in the end, feeling that things are right between these players and it works is probably the thing that comes out the most. And that comes a lot from the players themselves.

As much as this group gets on, obviously there are some that are attracted to each other more in the way of playing golf, because that's just that they seem themselves as personalities and the way they play, and you look at all those things.

But sometimes, you've also got to stand up and say, okay, you two might not know each other very good but this does fit. Every stat in the world will tell me that you two fit well together, so you need to go and play together. But then you work on them, not for two days, but for two, three weeks when you know your team. You start working on it then and you get it in their heads, and then you assess when they get here; are they actually -- the stats say they should work well together; are they now gelling as a pair and you can give it a try.

Q. What are your plans tomorrow? Will you drive around like Seve did in Valderrama? How will you do it?
THOMAS BJØRN: I'm going to -- this is a discussion with Keith Pelley, I think.

I want to be out on the golf course as much as I can. That's something that I'm quite looking forward to. These days leading into it is quite demanding on the captain. Actually, tomorrow, the fun starts and you're out with the players and you're watching a bit more, and I want to be out there. And obviously I've got great vice captains and they will keep me informed.

But I want to be out there because I feel like the presence on the golf course is the one place where you get the atmosphere and you get the feeling of what is actually going on. I've got an earpiece in and I know every golf shot that's been hit throughout the day, but it's a bit like listening to a football match or watching a football match. It's not quite the same.

CLARE BODEL: Thank you, Thomas.

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