Thomas Bjorn named 2018 European Ryder Cup Captain

Thomas Bjorn will become the first Dane, and the first Scandinavian, to lead Team Europe at the next edition of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris France, from September 28th – 30th 2018.

Chosen by the five-man selection panel comprising of the three most recent European Ryder Cup Captains – Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal – as well as the Chief Executive of the European Tour, Keith Pelley, and European Tour Tournament Committee member Henrik Stenson, 45-year-old Bjorn will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role of team captain. According to the 2010 European Team Captain Colin Montgomerie, Bjorn was the “obvious choice” for the role. He said, “’I saw first-hand what he was like as a vice-captain in 2010, and he was exceptional. We need to win the Ryder Cup back in France, and I feel we’ve got the best captain to do that.”

Having featured in three victorious European Ryder Cup teams as a player, namely Valderrama in 1997, The Belfry in 2002 and at Gleneagles in 2014, Bjorn understands the pressures of playing in such a heated environment. Moreover, Bjorn has also served as a vice-captain on four previous occasions – most recently under Darren Clarke in the defeat to Team USA at Hazeltine this year. As well as possessing an impressive Ryder Cup record, Bjorn has also had a stellar individual career having amassed 15 European Tour wins over a 20-year career.

On the announcement of his new role, Bjorn said, “It’s a huge honour for me to be named European captain for The 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris. This is one of the greatest days in my career.”

Given Bjorn’s history with the Ryder Cup, as well as the respect he has garnered through his development of the European Tour as Chairman of the Tournament Committee, a role he has held since 2007, it is difficult to argue with the appointment with Bjorn as the next European Team Captain.

However, despite his glowing CV, Bjorn can at times be a feisty character – a trait he demonstrated in 2006 with an outburst at being left out of Ian Woosnam’s European Team. As such it will be interesting to see how he engages with his team, as well as the media. Additionally, Bjorn has previous experience of captaining a team having captained a strong Continental Europe Team in the 2009 Seve Trophy. Despite having the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson at his disposal, Bjorn suffered a heavy defeat to the GB&I team losing 16.5 to 11.5.

Bjorn has no doubt learned from his previous experience of captaining a team, as well as having the benefit of the tutelage of Clarke and co. from successful Ryder Cup battles. As such, I am confident he remains the right man for the role. Indeed, now his appointment has been announced, I can’t wait to follow the twists and turns of the European Tour over the next few seasons to see who Bjorn will be taking with him to Le Golf National to try and win back the Ryder Cup.

By Neil McGregor , Commercial Assistant at Shot Scope

World Super Six Perth – a new era or a one hit wonder?

The big news from the golf world this week comes from down under. The ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and European Tour announced on Wednesday that the Perth International, which began in 2012, will be replaced by the World Super 6 Perth. The revolutionary new tournament will be held at Lake Karrinyup Country Club from the 16th-19th of February 2017 and will be co-sanctioned by both the PGA Tour of Australasia and the European Tour. There will be a complete format shake up at this event, which has caused quite a stir within the golf industry, with three days of stroke play followed by a final day of six-hole match play.
For the first three rounds nothing much will change – there will be 54 holes of stroke play and the usual 36-hole cut. On the Saturday afternoon, however, there will be a further cut that will leave only the top 24 players to go into the final round on Sunday. Any ties will be sorted out with a play-off and those 24 remaining players will then contest a six-hole match play shootout. This is where the ‘Knockout Hole’ is introduced and will determine the outcome of any matches tied after the six holes have been played. Purpose built for this event, the Knockout Hole is a 90m hole using a new tee that will be positioned adjacent to the 18th fairway and using the 18th green. It will be played only once and, if there is a tie, the players will head back to the tee for a nearest-the-pin shootout to determine the winner. The victor will then go on to the next round of the match play or, in the case of the final match, be crowned the winner of the tournament.
There is every chance that this type of golf tournament will come down to the wire, with nail-biting finales and all-or-nothing performances demanded on the Knockout Hole. It is exactly this drama which has prompted the change, with the hopes to appeal to a wider audience and engage them with this new format. European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley has had plans for just such a shake up for a while, announcing in July that they were looking into a six-hole format on the Tour.
Essentially this will be the golfing equivalent of the Rugby7’s – a chance to engage a fresh audience in fast paced and exciting sport.  It has been designed to remain true to golf and its rich history but to also answer calls for innovation to keep the game ‘relevant’ to modern audiences. It is no coincidence that Pelley is one of the frontrunners looking to see the game adapt and develop a shorter format, and this focus is obviously producing results.
The Perth World Super Six will be a different kind of golf, a different kind of test and hopes to attract a different kind of audience. The “aggressive and attacking” style of play is hoped to draw in the younger crowd. But what do the current golfing fans think of it? Over on the Shot Scope Facebook we’ve heard from some of you who think it might be more interesting to play but not, necessarily, to watch… There is only one way to find out, February 19th is marked in the diary and we’ll be waiting to see how this pans out.

True Test at Troon

The Open, the oldest major in golf, is set to be held at Royal Troon this week. The championship length is 7,190 yards and is a par 71. The course is host to deceivingly tight fairways, wispy long grass, gorse and tricky pot hole bunkers.

Most people describe Royal Troon as a game of two halves. The front nine gives the impression it is wide open with its lack of trees or gorse but the fairways are lined with tall wispy rough and perfectly placed bunkers to collect any off line tee shot. The back nine on the other hand has more gorse lined fairways especially in the loop 9th, 10th 11th and 12th. There are less bunkers on the back nine 36 bunkers to be exact, versus the 60 bunkers that defend the front nine.

Royal Troon’s most famous hole is the par 3 Postage Stamp. It is the shortest hole in championship golf at a mere 123 yards, but don’t let its length fool you. The tee box is raised above the green making it very open to the elements. If the wind is coming straight off the Firth of Clyde the hole suddenly becomes longer. You have to carry your shot over a grassy gully onto a long but very narrow green. The green is surrounded by five bunkers, one that is rightfully named the Coffin bunker due to its deep but narrow characteristics. This short hole is not a guaranteed par and has seen a few high scores in its Open championship history. In 1997 a young 21-year-old Tiger Woods walked off the 8th green with a triple bogey six after finding a bunker with his tee shot.

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Battle at the Castle

The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is returning to Castle Stuart this week. This beautifully fierce course is located in the Scottish Highlands in Inverness and is ready to host some of the best players in the world. This iconic links course looks out onto the Moray Firth and was opened in 2009. Its style and distinguished features were an instant hit and hosted the first ever European tour event in the Scottish Highlands in 2011.

This year will be the 4th time Castle Stuart has hosted the Scottish Open. Due the Scottish Open being held predominately the week before The Open Championship it tends to host a very strong field. These players take advantage of unprecedented practice on a links course, ahead of the 3rd major of the year. Past winners at this venue are Luke Donald (2011), Jeev Milka Singh (2012) and Phil Michelson (2013). Unfortunately, due to a busy schedule the past champion Rickie Fowler will not be returning to Scotland to defend his title. Phil Michelson currently ranked 21st in the world has his eyes set on another win at Castle Stuart. He will be hoping for a less exciting win than 2013 where he uncharacteristically failed to get down in two from just off the green on the 18th, which then forced a play-off with South Africa’s Branden Grace. Both of them shot a total score of 17 under par but Phil came out as the winner defeating Branden on the first play-off hole. This was Michelson’s first individual victory in the U.K.

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Potential of a Tiger Spotting at Troon

Tiger Woods was centre stage this past week at Congressional, but not as a competitor. He was on official hosting duties at the Quicken Loans National tournament that benefits his foundation. While there he took part in press conferences which quickly turned into an opportunity for the media to ask the question we’ve all been pondering for months: “When will he be returning to competitive golf?”

The 14-time major Champion hasn’t played a tournament since the Wyndham Championship last August and, after two back surgeries, the timescale for his return is still uncertain. He has been spotted hitting shots and playing rounds but explains that it is the physical demands of playing consecutive rounds is what is holding him back.

Woods entered both the Maters and U.S. Open, but much to the fans disappointment, he pulled out of both shortly afterwards citing he wasn’t physically ready yet. Even though The R&A has announced that Tiger Woods has entered to play in The Open Championship at Royal Troon, we’re not holding our breath just yet…

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Rory Returns to Major Winning Putting Grip

A lot of people were questioning the young Irish player’s decision on returning to a conventional putting grip but after his performance last week at Memorial it seems to have been the correct decision. This past week at Muirfield Village, Rory McIIlroy returned his best 4 round average for strokes gained putting in his career. The 1.826 SGP average helped him finish T-4th at The Memorial Tournament and he finished 3rd for strokes gained putting in the field that week.

The four-time major winner hasn’t exactly had misfortune with putting left-hand-low this season and that is why making this change so close to the second major of the year is questionable. Rory started putting left-hand-low after a missed cut at the Honda Classic and since then has finished T-3, T-27, 4, T-10, T-4, T-12 and importantly also won the Irish Open with the unconventional grip. All fantastic results and so far seems to be having a very strong 2016 season. So why the change?

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