The countdown to the Ryder Cup is now firmly under way following Thomas Bjorn’s naming of his vice-captains.
The skipper has gone for the tried and trusted for his lieutenants in naming Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell to join his best mate Robert Karlsson, who was named last year, as his backroom staff.
Who could argue with any of the men chosen?
Robert is a friend and someone Thomas trusts, Luke has Ryder Cup experience, while Lee has been involved in 10 matches as a player and been on the winning side seven times. Graeme has holed a match-winning putt for Europe and, perhaps, most importantly, you have Padraig, who is taking on the role for the third time.
To me it is a clear sign he is more than likely the man being groomed as the next captain for 2020 at Whistling Straits.
Put that group together and you have 29 appearances, 119 matches and 60 points on the board for Europe. Those statistics alone answer any questions for me. They command respect from their peers and the opposition.
United States captain Jim Furyk has Davis Love, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker on his team. Our guys match up brilliantly when it comes to Ryder Cup pedigree against any of his vice-captains.
It’s a big staff but every vice-captain will be vital in Paris in September.
A captain needs five deputies. There will be four out on the course for the four-balls and foursomes matches in the first two days, with the fifth vice-captain staying with the players not taking part to ensure they feel part of it and are ready to go when called upon.
The four men on the course will all be in contact with Thomas, letting him know how the matches are going and how their guys are feeling.
It’s an operational requirement but a vital one for the reasons I’ve just outlined. It’s been happening for years now, originally in an unofficial capacity but now a must-have minimum requirement.
The timing of Tuesday’s announcement was no coincidence, either, with this week’s BMW PGA championship the point where the race hots up to make Thomas’s team at Le Golf National in September. Ryder Cup points are worth 1.5 from here and Thomas will have men in mind as the countdown gets under way.
He’ll want his vice-captains to do their homework, size up the contenders and give him their opinions.
I’m sure the media will be looking for clues now, too, when it comes to groupings for European Tour events. Clearly, the fun is about to begin.