Thomas Bjørn accepts place on European Tour board after death of John O’Leary

Thomas Bjørn has been appointed as a non-executive director on the European Tour’s board
Thomas Bjørn – who led the Europe to victory in the 2018 Ryder Cup, in Paris – has joined the Euorpean Tour board, having chaired its Tournament Committee. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

THOMAS Bjørn has been appointed to the European Tour board as a non-executive director with immediate effect.

The 49-year old – who was nominated by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee – is the most successful Danish golfer in history, having also been the victorious Ryder Cup captain at Le Golf National in 2018.

Bjørn will bring important current player perspective to the board – 2020 is the Dane’s 25th consecutive season as a European Tour professional, having made his first appearance in 1996.

During that time he also served as chairman of the tournament committee for a decade from 2007 to 2016, before stepping aside to concentrate on the build-up to his Ryder Cup captaincy triumph in France.

A staunch supporter of golf on the Continent and the European Tour throughout his career, Bjørn’s time as tournament committee chairman coincided with some of the most significant changes in the European Tour’s 48-year history.

The first one came in 2009 with the instigation of the Race to Dubai, a year-long campaign – which replaced the old Order of Merit – to crown Europe’s No. 1 golfer at Dubai’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

And after chairman David Williams took up the post in 2014 and Keith Pelley was appointed chief executive a year later, Bjørn’s tournament committee oversaw the establishment of the Rolex Series – the premium event category on the Tour’s international schedule.

Speaking after his appointment, Bjørn said: “I am delighted and honoured to be invited to join the board of the European Tour.

“I have lived and breathed the European Tour for the past 25 years and, in that time, I have always strived to do the best I could to progress both the Tour itself and its membership.

“The same will be the case on the board and I am looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible.”

Tour chairman David Williams said: “I’m delighted to welcome Thomas to our European Tour board.

“His stellar golfing career is well-documented, including his 2018 experience as a winning Ryder Cup Captain.

“He has always had our members’ interests at heart, and he will continue to do so on our board.”

Bjørn joins board at crunch time

THE appointment of Thomas Bjørn follows the death of former Euroepan Tour winner John O’Leary last month.

It comes at a time of great uncertainty for the professional game on both sides of the Atlantic.

While the PGA Tour announced a plan to resume its schedule in the USA from the middle of June – including the first four events being played behind closed doors – the European Tour is still contemplating what events it can salvage from the 2020 season.

So far nine events have been postponed – and which could still theoretically be rearranged later in the year – while another five have been cancelled completely, including the new event in Sweden – hosted by Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam – which would have seen players from the Ladies European Tour competing alongside their male counterparts for one trophy and one prize fund.

The Irish Open – due to be held at the end of May – and July’s Scottish Open are two of the events the European Tour is most keen to resume, having said it will probably focus on producing a swing of events in the UK from September onwards.

The big question is if the BMW PGA Championship will still go ahead the week before the rearranged US Open at Winged Foot (September 17-20), if America requires a period of isolation for overseas golfers before they can compete in the USA.

Two other events planned for the UK are the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – due to be played at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns from October 1-4 – and the Betfred British Masters, at Newcastle’s Close House.

The latter – which is being hosted by Close House’s touring professional Lee Westwood – is likely to be moved from early August to avoid a clash with the rearranged WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, at Memphis’s TPC Southwind (July 30-August 2).

The third scheduled WGC event of 2020 – March’s WGC–World Match Play in Texas was cancelled – was moved to the week before the new date for the USPGA Championship at San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park (August 6-9)

The switch became possibley after the cancellation of the Toyko Olympics, freeing up that week when the Gold Medal would have been contested for just the second time in 116 years, at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The USGA’s Tracy Parsons of the USGA presents John O'Leary with a commemorative scroll at US Women’s Open Sectional Qualifying, at Buckinghamshire GC, in 2017
Former European Tour winner John O’Leary (right), who was director of golf at Buckinghamshire Golf Club before his death in April. Picture by TRISTAN JONES

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