St. Louis, Aug 7 (AFP) European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn said Tuesday he would like to see 14-time major winner Tiger Woods make the United States lineup for next month’s team golf showdown in France.
Bjorn says having Woods among the 24 players would bring a special “buzz” to the next edition of the biennial matchup September 28-30 at Le Golf National.
“I might put a few noses out of joint by saying, but in my opinion, (he’s) the best player that has ever played the game,” Bjorn said.
“If Tiger was included in the US team for the Ryder Cup, it would be great for the game of golf because he just brings something special. The buzz that was around The Open Championship… that would be great for the Ryder Cup as well.” Woods, coming off spinal fusion surgery after missing most of the past two years with back pain, would need to win this week’s PGA Championship to claim an automatic berth on points. Otherwise the planned vice-skipper would need to be a captain’s pick by US boss Jim Furyk, who confirms his first eight players on Monday.
– ‘Mythical creature’ –
Bjorn, who beat Woods at the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic just before Woods won the Masters to hold all four major titles, said he doesn’t fear players being awestruck by Woods, even though Scotland’s Russell Knox called Tiger a “mythical creature” at last month’s British Open.
“I’m glad that this generation of players get to experience Tiger Woods, because they need to experience what he brings to the game and all that comes with the world of Tiger Woods,” Bjorn said.
Set to qualify for Europe’s squad on European Tour points are British Open winner Francesco Molinari of Italy and England’s Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood with world rankings adding Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Spain’s Jon Rahm, Sweden’s Alex Noren and England’s Paul Casey to the squad.
All are ranked in the world’s top 25.
“We’ve known for the better part of 12 months that we were going to have a very strong team the way a lot of these guys have been playing,” Bjorn said. “It’s exciting to see so many of them do well.” – Olesen must be ‘special’ –
Just missing out under both methods is Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, a friend of Bjorn who still has time to change his fate. Europe’s first eight spots aren’t sealed until September 2 when the European Tour’s Race to Dubai concludes. “I told him, ‘You have to do something very special to make this team’,” Bjorn said. “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.” Bjorn heaped praise on Le Golf National, calling it one of Europe’s finest layouts.
“This is a great golf course,” Bjorn said. “It really is a thinkers course. It’s a ball-striker’s course as well. It just asks questions of everything in your game.” Bjorn’s current lineup has four Cup rookies in Noren, Hatton, Fleetwood and Rahm with experienced veterans such as Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson available for four captain’s picks he will announce September 10.
Garcia has struggled recently but last year’s Masters champion could provide a spark. Bjorn, however, wants to see improved play by 23rd-ranked Garcia before making his picks.
“Sergio won’t be happy with where he’s been with his game over the last few months,” Bjorn said.
“I would like to see something from him.” Other top talent beckons, including Knox, England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello. Experience is only one factor Bjorn must weigh among a myriad of considerations.
“There are going to be six or seven names that really deserve a lot of thought,” Bjorn said. “It really is a puzzle. It’s not one or two things that come into the consideration of making your picks, there are 15, 20 different things that play in.” (AFP) AT AT