Thomas Bjorn picks best pal Robert Karlsson as vice-captain

Sweden's Robert Karlsson poses with the Ryder Cup after being named Thomas Bjorn's first vice-captain for the event in Paris in 2018. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Sweden's Robert Karlsson poses with the Ryder Cup after being named Thomas Bjorn's first vice-captain for the event in Paris in 2018. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
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European captain Thomas Bjorn has named Sweden’s Robert Karlsson as his first vice-captain for the 2018 
Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris.

Karlsson twice represented Europe in the biennial contest against the United States as a player, firstly as part of the record-equalling team at the K Club in 2006 and secondly in the side defeated at Valhalla two years later.

The 47-year-old ended 2008 as the European No 1 after two victories and 10 other top-10 finishes, three of which came in major championships.

“To get the call from Thomas was very special and I’m really looking forward to being part of the Ryder Cup again,” Karlsson said. “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.”

Bjorn added: “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.”

Ryder Cup qualification starts at the D+D Real Czech Masters on 31 August and finishes at the Made in Denmark event at Bjorn’s home course in Silkeborg on 2 September, 2018.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the Nordea Masters, Bjorn said he expects to appoint another vice-captain this year, with the remainder being announced “right at the end” of the qualifying process.

“I need one or two people around me that I can have discussions with and it’s likely that there’s going to be one more by the end of this year,” Bjorn said. “But one thing that I look at is I need people to concentrate on playing golf.

“This is a conversation that started with Robert a while ago and we got to the conclusion that this is the right thing for me and it worked well for Robert.

“But with other guys you want them to play golf and you want them to concentrate about their own golf game, and then whatever will be, will be.”

Europe will attempt to regain the trophy in Paris following last year’s defeat at Hazeltine and Karlsson believes home advantage will be vital.

“It’s such a big difference playing home and away,” Karlsson said. “First of all, the spectators, the atmosphere is a huge difference.

“This time we have one big thing, as well. We’ve played on Paris National for many, many years. To have a course that we know very well is also a big advantage.”