Bjorn names Ryder Cup vice-captains – and there are a couple of surprises

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Thomas Bjorn has added a wealth of experience to his backroom staff for Le Golf National, writes Alex Perry

Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn threw in a couple of curveballs as he named his assistants for Le Golf National at Wentworth on Tuesday.

Robert Karlsson was already on board, while Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington were largely expected.

But it was the addition of Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell that caused the most surprise.

Yes, I know I wrote Lee Westwood twice. Move on…

While Donald has been plagued with injury in the past few months, McDowell will be particularly disappointed his form hasn’t picked up in his bid to qualify for Paris. In fact, he told us as much in a recent interview.

When asked why he chose this particular quintet, Bjorn said: “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, know what it takes to win the Ryder Cup.”

And while Ian Poulter’s name didn’t come up in the press conference, it’s the strongest indication yet that Bjorn is going to give the Englishman a chance to qualify for the team that goes to Paris. If he doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be there as part of the Dane’s set-up.

“I’m a strong believer that form is key for the Ryder Cup,” Bjorn said. “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.”

Here’s what the Ryder Cup vice-captains had to say…

Lee Westwood:

Obviously I’ve been on 10 Ryder Cup sides, but never been involved behind the scenes or 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 are friends and anything I can do to help, I will gladly do. It will be nice to see him take on his role as captain and support him as much as I can.

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.

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 and something I want to do.

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. Thomas needs people with experience, and that’s what he’s got.

Graeme McDowell:

It’s my first time being involved in the backroom staff of a Ryder Cup. I have a huge amount of respect for Thomas and all he’s accomplished in his career, and I’m really excited about the opportunity to help Team Europe stop the US momentum.

I think my experience at Paris National [McDowell is a former Open de France champion], the four Ryder Cups I’ve played have been the greatest moments of my career. I’m 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.

Padraig Harrington:

I think after having been vice captain twice, I realise how much work goes on behind the scenes in supporting the captain.

We all know that the teams are so well balanced nowadays that the captain can make all the difference, and he needs all the support he can get. There is a lot going on during the week.

So it’s nice to be back again to do it. 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.

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.

Luke Donald:

I’ve been in constant conversation with Thomas since he was announced as captain, just making it clear that I’d love to be involved in any way I can to help Team Europe get the cup back.

Obviously I have 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 was 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 any way I can in getting that cup back on European soil.

Robert Karlsson:

We have a team now of backroom staff, and I’ve had a year of a little bit of warm up, but it feels like now we start for real.

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.

Click here for our dedicated Ryder Cup site

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