European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn has named Sweden’s Robert Karlsson as his first vice captain for the 2018 contest against the United States at Le Golf National in France.
Karlsson twice represented Europe in The Ryder Cup, first as part of the record-breaking winning team in 2006 at The K Club, in Ireland, and then at Valhalla, Kentucky in 2008, when he defeated Justin Leonard 5&3 in the singles.
Later that year he won the Harry Vardon Trophy as the European Tour’s Number One player, becoming the first Swedish player to achieve the honour, while he also won the World Cup of Golf alongside Henrik Stenson.
He pipped Pádraig Harrington, who won two majors that year, for the 2008 Order of Merit. Now it remains to be seen if Harrington is named as one of Bjorn's assistants for Paris as he prepares to take over as skipper in 2020 or 2022.
"Well, I always got a few more announcements on that front," Bjorn said at the Nordea Masters on Wednesday. "You know, this was an important one for me. There will probably be one more made. I'm kind of toiling with the idea of this year. Not quite made up my mind on that 100 percent yet, and then the last ones will come right at the end. I don't really want to get there too quick.
"I need one or two people around me that I can have discussions with, and Robert being the first one, and there's more likely that there's going to be one more by the end of this year. But I need people to concentrate on playing golf."
Harrington's availability will depend on his form and should the 45-year-old start winning again, he might still have a chance of winning a seventh Ryder Cup cap in Paris at the age of 46 and matching Miguel Angel Jiménez, who was 46 when he played at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Christy O'Connor Snr is the oldest Irish Ryder Cup player, having teed it up at the age of 48 at Muirfield in 1973. Harry Bradshaw was 43 at Lindrick in 1957 with Christy O'Connor Jnr 41 in 1989.
The Dubliner returned to action in the BMW PGA after a 12-week layoff to recover from neck surgery and missed the cut by one stroke before failing to qualify for the US Open at Walton Heath on Monday.
Along with Shane Lowry, he tees it up in the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village on Thursday and punters seeking likely winners will be keeping an eye out for golf betting tips online.
As for Karlsson, the 47-year-old is Bjørn’s first appointment as part of his backroom team and he will bring a wealth of experience on the European Tour, having made more than 560 appearances, winning 11 titles during a career that has spanned 28 years. He has also finished inside the top ten in all four of golf’s Major Championships.
Bjørn said: “I know from all the Ryder Cups I have been involved in, both as a player and vice-captain, is it vital to have people around that you trust implicitly and Robert most definitely fits into that category.
“He has been one of my closest friends on Tour for many years and, not only that, he is immensely respected by all the players, both his peers and the younger guys now emerging.
"His playing credentials are impressive, having been a former European Number One, and he also knows the unique atmosphere of The Ryder Cup, having represented Europe both home and away.
“Robert will be a vital foil for me over the next 16 months in all aspects of our preparation, including helping analyse statistical information on players, and I know he will give me his honest opinion on everything I ask. I am delighted to have him as part of the team.”
Karlsson said: “To get the call from Thomas was very special and I’m really looking forward to being part of The Ryder Cup again. It is a great honour to be a vice captain and I’m very much looking forward to the next 16 months.
“I’ve played in two Ryder Cups so I have the experience of what the players will face and also have a lot of experience on the European Tour. I know the players well and I know Thomas very well too, and I will be there to do whatever he needs me to do.”
The qualification campaign for the 2018 European Team gets underway at the D+D Real Czech Masters from August 31-September 3, 2017. The contest itself will be played at Le Golf National, France, from September 28-30, 2018, when Europe will try to regain the Ryder Cup following defeat at Hazeltine National last year and extend an impressive winning record on home soil which stretches back to Valderrama in 1997.