'I don't think about losing – but I don't think about winning either'August 29, 2018 Latest news
The European team that travels to Paris may never have been better prepared. Whatever happens at Le Golf National, argues Steve Carroll, skipper Thomas Bjorn has left no stone unturned
It’s an American team that history may show makes the famed 1981 squad look like a set of substitutes.
But defeat on home soil is still unthinkable – on a continent where a Ryder Cup reverse hasn’t been experienced in a quarter of a century.
The man who’s charged with winning back the trophy for Europe knows what a devastating loss feels like – having been a vice-captain for one of the blue army’s most one-sided defeats in decades at Hazeltine two years ago.
Ryder Cups are perceived as black or white affairs. You win the trophy, or you don’t. Yet those two variables have never been part of captain Thomas Bjorn’s outlook.
As he prepares to take the reins in Paris, it’s preparation that matters to the Dane. It’s the only thing that’s ever mattered.
“I don’t really see myself as a guy that stands there and looks at winning or losing this Ryder Cup,” he told NCG.
“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 I am going to be like if we win it, what it’s 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.”
Bjorn continued: “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. That’s kind of how I see my job.”
For as he presciently pointed out, he could “do the best job ever” and the team could still lose. Or he could be terrible and the team might win.
There lies the paradox.
Bjorn will inevitably be judged on the result of those three days of competition at Le Golf National.
But his role as skipper has actually been a near full-time job for the European Tour veteran for the best part of two years.
He has searched for the tiny details that might give him an imperceptible edge – and he has involved himself in every aspect of the process.
That’s arguably been to the detriment of his own game but its purpose was crystal clear – to provide an environment where everyone can perform to their best.
What he quickly realised was that meant far more than simply catering for the 12 men who will take to the fairways.
“I’m in a position where I promised myself I’d have everything ready so my time in the last couple of months would be all about the players and all about being in conversation with them.
“The group is a lot of people. It’s not just the 12 players. It’s their caddies, the wives, the girlfriends and the coaches.
“A European Ryder Cup team is maybe 100 people that go to France and you have got to have everybody on side.
“So I wanted to have that time to spend with everybody who is going on the trip. All the preparations are there and we are ready to go.”
Although he might dispute it, Bjorn has also spent the last few months being a part-time psychologist – trying to influence the mood of the players, and everyone else who will be in that century strong party, to ensure they travel in the best possible frame of mind.
He explained: “It goes back to the one thing I’ve said all along. Those 12 players are going to do what they can do the best if everybody around them is in a good position.
“I tend to say the worst thing a golfer can have is to go to bed with an unhappy wife. You’ve got all those things to think about and you’ve got to play golf in the morning.
“So if I keep everyone around them happy then they are going to go and do a job.
“They are only in for one thing and that’s to go and try and win and so they need all their attention on that.
“I say ‘leave everything else to me’ and I try and take the caddies out and have conversations with them about where the players are, how they are feeling about their games and their thoughts. Who they like and who they don’t like.
“There’s a lot that goes into things when you go as a team. I spend a lot of time sitting in the players’ lounge [at the European Tour venues] and speaking to wives and girlfriends about what’s going on outside of the golf.
“I understand where the players are and what they bring to the table. It’s just a big moving thing and the mood tends to move with results as well.
“That’s the nature of having a 12-man team.”
So he can control the wildcards, the pairings, the team room, even the look and feel of the L’Albatros – the only thing he can’t control is the bit that really matters: the action on the course.
Come October 1, when Bjorn’s time at the head of the Ryder Cup juggernaut is at an end, he’ll either be a winning or losing captain.
“I’m perfectly fine to deal with either/or,” he said.
Because he will know he could have done no more. And that’s surely all anyone can ask of him.