Honma Hong Kong Open

American Patrick Reed pleasantly surprised by Thomas Bjorn’s ‘awesome’ appointment as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain

Dane named Darren Clarke’s successor for the 2018 showdown at Le Golf National in Paris, with hosts seeking to bounce back from this year’s defeat at Hazeltine

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 9:00pm

In the age of social media and everyone knowing anything the second it happens, it came as some surprise that American Patrick Reed was not aware of Thomas Bjorn’s appointment as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for the 2018 showdown in France.

But it did mean Reed opening remark of “that is awesome” was a genuine reaction from the man who became synonymous with the US’ 17-11 victory at Hazeltine earlier this year.

“He is a great guy, a great competitor. A lot of guys look up to him and it will great for the European team and I wish them all the best,” said world number eight Reed ahead of the start of this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday.

“But hopefully we will do what we did this year and win overseas as I have heard people saying it seems centuries since we have won a Ryder Cup overseas and that is our next goal.”

The USA’s victory on home soil in October ended Europe’s bid for a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup success, while you need to look back to 1993 for the last time the Americans prevailed in Europe.

Bjorn, who was vice captain to Darren Clarke this year, is believed to have beaten off bids from flamboyant Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and was handed the honour on Tuesday as the first Scandinavian Ryder Cup captain.

“It is a good appointment, he will be a very nice captain, he has a lot of experience and he knows the players and I think it will be nice,” said 52-year-old Jimenez, who is also in Hong Kong this week looking for his record fifth success at Hong Kong Golf Club.

“I put my name there, but I am more on the Champions Tour now and I don’t play much anymore on the regular tour and one of the important keys is the captain is playing with the players. I have had many involvements many times and that is fine for me.”

Europe have won the last five editions of the Ryder Cup that have been played on European soil, with the biannual match play event returning to mainland Europe for the first time since the 1997 when the tournament tees off at Le Golf National in Paris at the end of September 2018.

Danny Willett will be hoping to earn a place on Bjorn’s team having endured a disappointing debut at Hazeltine as the Masters champion failed to win a point, while also dealing with the fallout from comments made by his brother before the tournament which were critical of American spectators.

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“He has been brilliant in the past and I think it is a great appointment,” said Willett, who is another featuring at Fanling this week alongside defending champion Justin Rose.

“I think it was between him, Jimenez and Paul Lawrie, and Paul is still trying to play more golf than Thomas it and I think it is a good decision and he will be a very good captain.

“It is always nice when you know the guys and Thomas will probably play some events with some of the guys and see how the guys are playing, and with Miguel being over in America a bit more, it probably does benefit the tour to have someone who plays a bit more in Europe.”

Jimenez enjoyed a stellar season on the US PGA Tour Champions circuit for players aged over 50, with one win and eight other top 10 finishes in 13 events leaving him fourth on the order of merit.

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Jimenez last tasted success at Hong Kong Golf Club just before his 50th birthday in December 2013 having previously lifted the trophy in 2005, 2008 and 2012.

“I am hitting OK, hitting it well, and the golf course it looking better than ever,” added Jimenez, who is the tournament’s oldest winner and also the European Tour’s oldest champion having landed the 2014 Spanish Open.

“I am moving the ball well, nothing much to work on, and I am feeling good with my impact. I love Hong Kong, it is nice to come back and Hong Kong is one of my favourite courses in the world.

“I can still win, I wouldn’t have made the long trip if I didn’t think I could win.”