The race to automatically qualify for the European Team for The 2018 Ryder Cup gets under way this week at the D+D REAL Czech Masters, and captain Thomas Bjørn is looking forward to seeing how all the contenders perform over the next 12 months.
This week’s tournament at the Albatross Golf Resort, in Prague, is the first European Tour event where players can earn points in their quest to make Bjørn’s 12-man team for Le Golf National next year, when Team Europe will aim to extend its impressive recent record on home soil against the United States.
The qualification campaign will end, fittingly, at the 2018 Made in Denmark at Bjørn’s home golf course, Silkeborg Ry Golfklub, after which the first four players from the European Points List, followed by the leading four players from the World Points List, will automatically make it into Bjørn’s team.
Bjørn, himself a three-time winner of The Ryder Cup, will then have four wildcard picks for Paris, and with plenty of European talent to choose from, the Dane is excited to finally start the selection process for golf’s greatest team event.
“From now on it is going to be a lot more concrete as you start to see who is playing well and who isn’t,” he said.
“So far there has been a lot of planning, but now all my focus turns to the 12 who are going to play, which is by far the most important thing.
“I am so close to a lot of the players, many of them are great friends of mine, and I am trying to balance the captaincy with those friendships.
“So many of those relationships extend beyond The Ryder Cup, and I’ve got to realise that I have got to be a captain of these players and some will be there and some will not.
“My door will always be open as I am captain of all the European-born members of the Tour, not just players who everyone thinks are going to be in the team.
“Everyone believes they have a chance of playing in the team. There might a couple of players who go on to surprise everyone and I have to have an open mind to that.
“I have spoken to a couple of past captains already. I’ll try and speak to most of them along the way and gather as much information as I can from them.
“The focus will be on the 12 players and not on me. I know sometimes I am the front figure of it but I like to put the focus on the players as they are ones that deserve to have the focus on them.
“Our players are some of the finest in world golf, and I am going to just be sitting on the sidelines trying to give them as much good direction as I can.
“There is so much talent now. If you look at guys who are ranked 25th to 30th in the Race to Dubai they are so talented and so capable and you don’t know if they are the ones who next year will go on to take that step to become one of the best players in Europe and make the team.
“I am not worried because I see so much great talent out there and there are still those guys who have lots of experience too.
“The way it looks today it is going to be a well-balanced team, I would like to think. You have got to have rookies and you have got to have experience in there.”
As part of changes announced earlier this year, there will be a greater weighting for points earned in tournaments in the latter stages of The 2018 Ryder Cup qualification process to help ensure the European Team reflects those players in form nearer the time of The Ryder Cup itself.
Race to Dubai points and World Ranking points earned in these tournaments will be multiplied by 1.5 for the two respective qualification lists with the first counting event to benefit from this increased weighting in the 2018 season being the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Bjørn will also have four wildcards at his disposal, as opposed to three, while no Ryder Cup qualification points will be available from tournaments staged anywhere in the world opposite Rolex Series tournaments, both in 2017 and 2018.