VIRGINIA WATER, England, May 25 (Reuters) - It is nine years since former European number one Robert Karlsson last sampled the special atmosphere of the Ryder Cup and he would dearly love to be involved in the biennial team event again next year.
At the age of 47, the Swede acknowledges that it is highly unlikely he will be swinging a club in anger at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018.
However, with fellow Scandinavian Thomas Bjorn installed as skipper on home soil in Europe, Karlsson could be a contender for a vice-captain's role as the hosts look to take revenge for last year's defeat by the United States in Minnesota.
"I would be honoured and delighted to take part in the team in any shape or form," he told Reuters in an interview after opening his BMW PGA Championship campaign with a four-over-par 76 at a sun-baked Wentworth on Thursday.
"If he (Bjorn) has got the wish for me to be there, I'll be by his side. If I'm offered a place I'll be there and I'll do my best to support the team."
Karlsson was Europe's number one golfer in 2008 but since then he has only once finished in the top 10 in the money-list.
The 6-foot-6 Swede played in the Ryder Cup in 2006 and 2008 and has claimed a total of 11 victories on the European Tour, the last of which came at the 2010 Dubai World Championship.
Karlsson has missed the cut in five of the eight tournaments he has featured in this season but said he took encouragement from finishing joint 11th in last week's Sicily Open thanks to a sparkling 66 in the final round.
"I feel like I'm going in the right way. I'm hitting it quite nicely on the range but unfortunately we don't count shots on the range," he laughed.
"You have to bring those shots from the range onto the course. I'm pretty happy with how things are feeling and things are definitely going in the right direction," Karlsson said.
"I feel all the parts of my game are there on the range and sometimes on the golf course. At the moment I'm not putting all that together but that's a thing of patience and you just have to keep going."
Karlsson will be eligible for the seniors' circuit in two and a half years but, for the moment, he has dismissed all thoughts of joining the 50-plus brigade on their tour.
"It's something I don't want to talk about, don't want to think about. I still want to play golf against the best players in the world. We'll see what happens in the future but I'm currently playing against the best players in the world and that's where I want to be."
Editing by Mark Heinrich