Paul Lawrie has watched Thomas Bjorn join in the banter in the build up to the Ryder Cup, but is confident the Dane will have his game head on when he bids to lead Europe to victory in France this week.
While often portrayed as being dour, Bjorn showed his sense of humour when he turned up at a fan’s door after he had sent the captain a letter jokingly saying he was removing his name for consideration to represent Europe.
In recent weeks, a video was also posted on social media of Bjorn being the target of a wind up by four of his team members – Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood.
“I’ve known Thomas a long, long time, since he first came out on Tour,” said Lawrie of the man tasked with trying to win back the trophy after Europe lost 17-11 at Hazeltine in Minnesota two years ago.
“He’s quite a serious character but, at the same time, has a good sense of humour and is good fun. He doesn’t mind getting involved in a bit of banter, as we have seen with some of the phone calls from Rory etc that we’ve seen on social media in the build up.
“But there’s a serious side to him. He’s very clever. He’s been chairman of the tournament committee for years and you can’t take on that role if you are not a smart person. I think he’s brilliant in that role. He’s very calm in that role.
“When he’s playing, he’s like all of us and can be fiery at times. But, when you put him a role where you have to be serious, he is brilliant and I think he will be a really good captain. “He’ll have the respect of the players, which is hugely important. He’s been there, done it and won some big events. He’s a guy you can go to and speak to. I thought Darren Clarke was a really good captain (in 2016), but he didn’t win. It doesn’t make you a bad captain if you don’t win.”
One less than Clarke, Bjorn has five rookies in his team – Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen.
They’ve all racked up some big wins over the past couple of years but Lawrie, who hit the opening shot on his debut at Brookline in 1999, reckons they will still be hit by first-tee nerves on Friday.
“I don’t think it matters whether you’re a world-class player or not,” said the Aberdonian. “When you’re a rookie, you are a rookie. You’re walking into that team room for the first team you are going into something completely new.
“I think it helps when you are a player who has won a wee bit more than most but you are still a rookie.
“I enjoyed it. Obviously I spoke a lot to Monty (Colin Montgomerie) and Bernard Gallacher before I played in 1999, experienced guys who were really good at preparing me.
“They tell you exactly what it’s going to be like, they don’t pull any punches to make sure you realise what a tough environment it’s going to be.
“The fact these rookies will have a home crowd behind them will help but it’s still tough going into that pressure against the best players in the world. But you’ve got to cope, you’ve just got to get on with it.
“These guys are all good players and I think they’re going to really enjoy it if they just crack on.”