Bjorn sets pace at British Open

Despite a turbulent run up to the tournament, Thomas Bjorn is back to his best at the same Open he fell apart at in 2003

    Bjorn watches his ball drop back into the bunker at the 16th hole of the British Open in 2003 [GALLO/GETTY]

    Emotionally drained after the recent death of his father and ill-prepared as a late entry after a wretched run of form, Thomas Bjorn must have been in turmoil as he saw his ball heading towards the greenside bunker at the dreaded 16th hole of Royal St George's on Thursday.

    Eight years ago in the final round of the British Open the Dane had just bogeyed 15 but still led by two shots as he stood on that same 16th tee with his first major title there for the taking.

    However, his ball went into the bunker and, in a sequence he must have replayed in his mind a thousand times, his first two attempts to get out merely resulted in it rolling agonisingly back into the sand.

    He eventually carded a double-bogey five and then dropped another shot on 17 to hand the title to American outsider Ben Curtis.

    On Thursday, after again flirting with that tiny patch of sand that has cast such a huge shadow on his life, Bjorn's ball had just enough momentum to make the green, pick up a nice bounce and give him a birdie putt which he duly sank.

    "That hole owes nobody anything, no hole does and no golf course does"

    Early British Open leader Bjorn 

    Although he dropped a shot on the last, his five-under-par 65 was a scintillating start to the tournament and set a target that, with the wind getting up, few of the later starters are unlikely to better.

    "That hole owes nobody anything, no hole does and no golf course does," Bjorn said of the 163-yard par-three 16th.

    "I played that Open and I played fantastic the whole week but I didn't hit the right shot on 16, that happens in golf.

    "Today I was in-between clubs and I went for the big nine-iron, and when it started climbing a little bit on the wind I thought it was in trouble. I thought it was going to struggle to carry that bunker so when it just made it there was just a smile of knowing that things were going my way today.

    "That gives you the trust and belief that sometimes things can turn out your way and it does that in links golf. A bounce here or there and then it goes either wrong or right and today it went my way."

    2003 is history

    Bjorn, now 40, has never been as close to a major as he was in 2003, though he pushed Phil Mickelson all the way when he finished a shot back in the 2005 U.S. PGA.

    Despite all his other achievements, returning to the scene of his darkest day was always going to be a talking point this week.

    "A lot of people have asked me what I feel about 2003 but it's in the past," he said.

    "I've worked very hard in my career to get myself in those positions. I did it in '03 and that was my biggest chance and I got close in '05 at Baltusrol (U.S. PGA) but I've always promised myself I'll keep going.

    "People can do whatever they want, write you off, but when you live in a career that's there ahead of you, you try and make the best of every single day and that's what I've done."

    In an up and down last few years, Bjorn won the Qatar Masters in February but his form dipped and he was then hit hard by the death of his father in May after a long illness.

    "I don't at the moment play the golf that I used to, I did today, but most of the time I don't"

    Thomas Bjorn

    He choked back tears as he talked about his loss on Thursday.

    "I think he would be very proud of what I did today," said Bjorn.

    "I don't at the moment play the golf that I used to, I did today, but most of the time I don't. That's down to a lot of issues, I think, including losing the golf swing over a couple of seasons where I found golf extremely difficult," he said. 

    "I've been very uncomfortable on the golf course for a long time and I wasn't really expecting to play here but I did a lot of work yesterday and some things just started to make a little bit of sense after a few tough weeks on Tour.

    "I felt comfortable today. I hit pretty much all the shots I wanted to hit and I walked off with a round of 65, which is very pleasing.

    "If I can last all the way until Sunday, well, only time will tell. But I always look ahead. I'm 40 years old and there might just be a little bit more in me."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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