AP Interview: Bjorn excited to see Tiger Woods in Ryder Cup

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — Tiger Woods returning to the United States team after a six-year absence will make golf’s showdown even better, according to Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

“He brings so much greatness to the game of golf,” Bjorn told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday, two weeks before the action in France.

A runner-up finish at the PGA Championship last month behind Ryder Cup teammate Brooks Koepka ensured a resurgent 42-year-old Woods won selection from Bjorn’s counterpart Jim Furyk.

It’s an eighth Ryder Cup appearance, and the first since 2012, for Woods whose only win was in 1999. He has a losing record overall though won four of seven duels in singles.

“For such a big event you want big personalities, big profiles. I’m excited about seeing that American team. I’m excited about seeing Tiger back in the fold,” Bjorn said in France at the Evian Championship women’s major.

The Sept. 28-30 event at Le Golf National in the south-west suburbs of Paris is a rare chance for French fans to watch Woods close up.

How Furyk chooses to use Woods is not open to speculation by Europe’s captain. Bjorn, who won all three Ryder Cups he played in, was a vice captain in 2004 and saw an opening day Woods-Phil Mickelson pairing backfire at Oakland Hills with two losses.

“Whatever (Tiger) brings to the American team, and all that, that’s for the Americans to answer and Jim to deal with,” Bjorn said. “I focus on our 12 and what they do.”

Instead, the 47-year-old Dane is “quite excited” about his five rookies — compatriot Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren.

“I think they’re a great bunch of guys and they’ve proven themselves on the world stage,” Bjorn said.

Lacking Ryder Cup play, they combine for more experience than the Americans of the par-71 Albatros course. It has hosted the French Open on the European Tour for more than 25 years.

Noren won there in July, as did Fleetwood for the 2017 edition. In 2014, Koepka missed the cut — as did Bjorn — when the now three-time major winner was an unheralded member of the European Tour.

“It’s a nice thing that we know it well but if it’s a big advantage? I don’t think so,” said Bjorn. “When you take the best players in the world and put them on any golf course they are going to find a way round it.”

Once a top-10 player, Bjorn’s own game has declined during an intense 20 months of preparation for his team. He is ranked No. 847 but that does not matter now.

“I lead from behind and I push them forward,” Bjorn said of his players. “It’s their moment to shine. It’s their Ryder Cup.”

“I’ve never met a player yet who doesn’t get surprised about how great it is. I think they all will react really well to it.”

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