Thomas Bjørn | Player Profile | Nedbank Golf Challengeon October 27, 2011
At the beginning of 2010, Thomas Bjørn sat on a couch in a press centre and declared, “I’m at the crossroads with everything. I’m getting a bit older and making swing changes to carry me through to my mid-40s.” It was a moment of pure honesty for a man who has been described as a “a veritable block of Scandinavian ice”. But in 2011, Bjørn reaped the rewards of his new focus.
Following his victory in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters in February, Bjørn claimed back-to-back wins in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles and the Omega European Masters at the spectacular Crans-sur-Sierre in Siwtzerland. The latter triumph marked the first time in 14 years a player over 40 had won on the European Tour. And the significance of this was not lost on the Danish golfer. “With what Darren (Clarke) did in winning the Open, we can show that we are both capable of playing with the best in the world. At this age, you are by no means finished. You can’t write people off when they get past 40 because this game has so much to do with experience,” he said.
It’s been a transformation that began when he ended a four-year win drought with victory in the 2010 Estoril Open de Portugal, and which also saw him working through the death of his father Hans in 2011, when he took two months off to grieve.
In his current form, many are talking about his return to the European Ryder Cup team, but this time as a player. Bjørn has been a fixture of the European Ryder Cup team, twice being on the winning side in 1997 and 2002. His selection in 1997 made history as the first time a Danish golfer had been selected for the European Ryder Cup team. He has also twice served as vice-captain.
Bjørn has always been considered a complex character who appears on the golf course to live up to the English translation of his surname to bear. He first made an impact on the European Challenge Tour, winning four tournaments there in 1995 to tee off his professional career.
He graduated to the European Tour the next season, and made a fast start with victory in the Loch Lomond World Invitational on his way to a rookie season that ended with a 10th-place finish on the Order of Merit, earning him the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award. The 1998 season was another standout one for Bjørn, with two victories and a finish of sixth on the European Tour’s Order of Merit. His consistency is reflected in his six top-ten finishes on the Order of Merit throughout his career, his highest being fifth in 2000. The respect he has earned as a player is also reflected in the names of those he has beaten.
In 1998 he won the Peugeot de Espana by one stroke over Jose Maria Olazabal and Greg Chalmers. That same year he beat Ian Woosnam by a stroke to win the Heineken Classic.
In 2000 he beat Bernhard Langer by three strokes to win the BMW International Open.
In 2001 he won the Dubai Desert Classic by two strokes over Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods.
Bjørn is still searching for his first Major title. His best finishes here include tied second in the Open Championship in 2000 and 2003, fourth in 2011 and tied eighth in 2002; and tied second in the PGA Championship in 2005, and third in 2000.
His most memorable miss was the 2003 Open at Royal St George’s. Bjørn stepped onto the 15th tee three strokes ahead of his nearest challenger, Ben Curtis. Then he bogeyed 15, took three shots to get out of the greenside bunker on 16 for a double bogey, and bogeyed 17 as well to lose by a shot to Curtis.
But with his 2011 season to build on, Bjørn could still follow in the footsteps of his friend Clarke and strike another Major blow for the over-40s.
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