European captain Thomas Bjorn is unconcerned about American dominance of golf’s biggest prizes ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris.
The United States currently boasts four of the world’s top six players and holds the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Presidents Cup, Walker Cup and all four major championships, with only the Curtis Cup missing from the collection.
However, Bjorn – who completed his backroom team by selecting Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald to join Robert Karlsson as his vice-captains on Tuesday – is confident he will have the right players at his disposal to regain the trophy at Le Golf National in September.
“We know what we are up against,” Bjorn said ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. “We know they have a very strong team. They have extremely strong players.
“But when I look at the list of 25, 30 players (in contention for Europe’s team) it’s hard to say that Europe is not in a very good place. That we don’t hold the major trophies, is that a coincidence? Maybe and maybe not.
“But that’s not really what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on can I see us winning with the players that we have? Absolutely we can.
“You go and you prepare yourself as well as you can, and you go and do it with belief in your players and belief in the team around, and then we do it together, like we always do. There is no place in the world like a European Team room.
“It’s the best place you can be as any sportsman.”
McDowell, who holed the winning putt in 2010 and twice won the French Open at Le Golf National, added: “I think all the attention is on the US momentum, and the fact that they have got the major championships and the world number one.
“I think Europe slips nicely into its underdog role going into this one and I think we are all just really excited by the challenge. We have a very under rated and probably under-talked-about squad of players that I certainly feel can rival their best.”
Westwood insisted he “jumped at the chance” to become a vice-captain, even though it almost certainly signals an end to his remarkable playing record in the contest.
Since making his debut in 1997, Westwood has played in the last 10 contests, one short of Nick Faldo’s record, and was on the winning side seven times, compiling a total of 23 points bettered only by Faldo (25), Bernhard Langer (24) and Colin Montgomerie (23 1/2).
Asked if he had mixed feelings at not being involved as a player, Westwood said: “No, not really. 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.
“Playing in a Ryder Cup is very special. But to be involved with it is very special as well and something I want to do.
“Thomas has pulled together a good team here with a lot of knowledge and experience and hopefully at the right times we can give the right words to somebody less experienced than us that might be playing their first one.”
“They all possess strong personalities but each of them will also bring something different to the team, giving us great balance. They have forthright opinions which is vital under the spotlight of a Ryder Cup week and can only help our cause as we try and regain the trophy.”
Westwood and Harrington have also expressed an interest in the captaincy and could be rivals to succeed Bjorn and lead Europe in 2020 at Whistling Straits.
Bjorn’s opposite number Jim Furyk has named Davis Love, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker as assistants, although Woods has stated his intention to play on the team as well.
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