At the time he played down the impact that it had on him and his preparations for the biggest challenge of his career, but Europe’s winning Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam has revealed that Thomas Bjorn’s pre-tournament criticism of his captaincy and personality hurt him more than anything else in his 30 years as a professional golfer.
In an interview given to The Independent newspaper he also claimed that he was ready to give up the captaincy just a couple of weeks before the clash with the USA at the K Club in September.
Bjorn reacted furiously to Woosnam’s decision to overlook him for a wildcard berth on the team, a place that was instead given to Lee Westwood. He publicly slammed Woosnam’s decision and suggested that other members of his team were worried by Woosnam’s failure to communicate with them. Bjorn was fined £10,000 by the European Tour and has since retracted his comments.
Woosnam had claimed to understand Bjorn’s anger and stated that it would all be forgotten in due course but he revealed to the newspaper that his private thoughts did not mirror those printed in the media at the time of the row.
“The stuff that worried me the most was not the personal stuff,” he told The Independent.
“It obviously hurt, but the suggestion that other members of the squad were uneasy with me was what really concerned me. It was the lowest period of my career and I have to admit that I was prepared to resign over it.”
“In the end I sat half of the team down during our visit to the K Club in early September and asked them to speak up if anyone agreed with what Thomas had said. Fortunately there was a silence and to a man they backed me. It was the same with the other boys I spoke to on the phone and that was the vote of confidence I needed.”
Under Woosnam’s stewardship the European team cruised to an 18.5-9.5 win over the USA in Ireland, with his two wildcard picks – Westwood and Darren Clarke – earning several crucial points along the way. It meant vindication for Woosnam, who was able to quickly forget Bjorn’s comments. However, the 48 year-old Welshman hinted that he had not completely forgiven the Dane.
“Some of what he said about me was actionable and I did consider suing Thomas,” he said.
“But that would have put a cloud over our victory. A few weeks later I bumped into him at St Andrews and we shook hands after he apologised. But when people ask me if I’m ok with him now I always refer to something he said about me – that ‘things will never be the same between us’. He’s right. They won’t be.”