'He's A Winner' - Thomas Bjørn Heaps Praise On Ryder Cup Rookie

Thomas Bjørn on why Europe's rookies have got him so excited ahead of next week's showdown in Rome

Thomas Bjorn
Thomas Bjørn can't wait for the contest in Rome to get underway
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Thomas Bjørn has heaped praise on Europe’s rookies ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, and says the current team “will change how Ryder Cups will be for Europe going forward”.

The Dane, who captained Europe to a 17½-10½ victory over the US in Paris five years ago, is particularly excited to see fellow countryman Nicolai Højgaard in action, a player he says has “a huge game”.

“He has a huge amount of talent. The way he hits the ball is special,” Bjørn told Golf Monthly ahead of the much-anticipated showdown in Italy.

Bjørn says he has got to know the man from Billund very well over the last year, during which time he has been in regular contact with the 22-year-old, already a two-time winner on the DP World Tour.

“He has the right attitude,” added Bjørn. “He’s a winner. He wants to achieve things. He’s never a person to shy away from tough things. He doesn’t get scared. He actually elevates himself in tough situations.”

Luke Donald and his European team spent 36 hours at the Ryder Cup venue before the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Bjørn, one of Donald's vice captains, said the trip was “unbelievable” and extremely valuable for the skipper, who’s charged with winning back the Ryder Cup after America’s dominance at Whistling Straits two years ago.

“It was a really, really, really, really good experience to see these 12 together,” said Bjørn. “They all had a good time.”

Thomas and Nicolai

Great Danes Nicolai Højgaard and Thomas Bjørn

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bjørn also revealed how the team are enjoying a great camaraderie, which has been boosted by a healthy amount of banter, mostly at the rookies’ expense.

“As any team in sport, they are hard on the rookies, they are giving them plenty of stick but in the right sort of manner,” said Bjørn.

“When you are a captain, if you have to get involved in trying to create a camaraderie then that becomes a very difficult thing. This group certainly doesn’t need any help to like each other.”

Højgaard is one of four rookies in Donald’s team, the others being Robert MacIntyre of Scotland, Austria’s Sepp Straka and man of the moment, Ludvig Åberg.

Donald described the 23-year-old Swede as a “generational talent” when he confirmed his place in the team, and Bjørn is equally excited by what the player can achieve.

“You watch him hit the ball. You watch him approach the game. He’s just such an exciting player, and then he has a great head on him,” Bjørn said of Åberg, who won the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in early September, just two months after turning professional.

Ludvig Åberg Sweden

Sweden's Ludvig Åberg has burst onto the scene 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bjørn added: “I made the Ryder Cup after 18 months on Tour and I thought that was fast, so this is a bullet train how fast this has been.”

It’s a fresh looking side that will take on the US in Italy, one that Bjørn describes as “completely different”, and the 52-year-old says it’s a transition that Team Europe needed to go through.

“We talked about a transition. We talked about that needing to happen at some stage. Now it’s happened and we have a completely new crop of players – young players, exciting players.

“I think this is a team that will change how Ryder Cups will be for Europe going forward. I’m very excited about that.” 

Thomas Bjørn was speaking to Golf Monthly via Betway.

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.