Bjorn defends Johnnie Walker title with one eye on Ryder Cup options

Thomas Bjorn
Getty Images
As a vice captain, Thomas Bjorn has been busy tracking the progress of the European Ryder Cup team, which will be finalized in the next few days.
Bernie McGuire
Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | 3:32 p.m.

GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- Defending champion Thomas Bjorn goes into the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Thursday with the Ryder Cup on his mind.

Bjorn is one of the European Ryder Cup vice captains, and the Johnnie Walker ends the race for the 10 automatic spots on the team. Bjorn has been busy tracking the progress of the team, which will play next month against the United States at Medinah.

So far, Bjorn likes what he's seen, particularly the back-to-back success of winners Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. Jose Maria Olazabal then will add his two captain's picks for the Ryder Cup matches.

''It has been a couple of important weeks,'' Bjorn said. ''When they play the way they have done, it leaves a little bit less room for our guys. So Kiawah (McIllroy's wins) was very important, and Sergio's win last week was also very important.

''It just gives a boost to the whole European team,'' he added. ''Five weeks away is the perfect timing for all of them to be right on top of their game.''

McIlroy not only won his second major championship but stormed past Tiger Woods and Luke Donald to take back the top ranking by winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C. Garcia ended a four-year PGA Tour winless drought on Monday in capturing the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina.

Bjorn will be joined as vice captain by former British Open winner Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and Ireland's Paul McGinley, the hero of the 2002 Ryder Cup. All three served in the same capacity in 2010 under Colin Montgomerie.

Olazabal will choose his fourth vice captain later this week and make his two wild-card picks on Monday.