Early start could give Thomas Bjørn a flyer in the British Open tomorrow
Noboby really fancies the 43-year-old Dane, which is great because we all know what happens when he's under too much pressure
It must say something about the world of sport that there was far more interest in the ‘loser’ Thomas Bjørn ahead of the 2011 British Open and his return to Sandwich – the scene of his spectacular meltdown in 2003 that saw him blow a two-shot lead with three to play – than there is in the ‘winner’ Thomas Bjørn this year, the current leader of the European Tour’s Order of Merit and a shoe-in to play in the Ryder Cup.
The world number 25, who has finished three times in the top four at Europe’s only major tournament and came 41st the last time the tournament was held at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, is generally rated the 22nd most likely player to triumph by the bookmakers – not bad for a 43-year-old who only won twice between 2002 and 2010 and several seasons ago seemed content to represent Europe as a non-playing vice-captain, not fighting it out on the greens.
Bjørn likes links ... a lot
But with six wins in the last four and a half years, Bjørn has turned his career around. So when the links specialist tees off tomorrow at 08:15 in the company of two Americans, Patrick Reed and the 2012 champ Stewart Cink – there might be a few who quietly fancy the Dane.
Four top-ten finishes in 2014 and a win last December, the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, see him lead the Order of Merit with 1.53 million euros. And while the 780,000 he pocketed in South Africa played a big part in this, he is undoubtedly playing well, missing only three cuts out of 14, finishing eighth at the Masters and very nearly winning the BMW PGA Championship, at which he went on to finish third.
Since then he has had a couple of injuries – neck and shoulders – but he looked in good shape at last week’s Scottish Open, where he finished 24th. And while few expect him to win (66/1 with Ladbrokes) – one of the leading bookmakers, Sky Bet, today told Sporting Life that a Bjørn victory would be one of its best results – there will be plenty of money on him to be top Scandinavian (5/1 with Ladbrokes), a field that includes an impressive six Swedes and inexplicably a Finn.
Can Olesen bounce back?
Also there, but just one place off from being the rank outsider to be top Scando, is Denmark’s other entry, Thørbjorn Olesen, who is 16s with Ladbrokes and a colossal 200/1 to win the Claret Jug.
A little over a year ago, his future had looked so bright – particularly after he shot the best score over the final three rounds of the Masters. Only an opening 78 deprived him of being in the mix.
Olesen, a native of Furesø, mostly plays his golf in the US, and over there his form has been disappointing. In Europe, on the other hand, he has only failed to make the cut once in seven tournaments, so there are signs he might arrest his dramatic year-long slide down the world rankings to number 94.
He finished ninth at the 2012 British Open so he does have some form on the links, and like Bjørn he has an early tee-off time – 07:53 in the company of US golfer Ryan Moore and Italy’s Francesco Molinari – a distinct advantage as both players should avoid the high winds that are anticipated to pick up towards and through the afternoon.
Nevertheless, Olesen only qualified after American golfer Charles Howell withdrew due to family matters, so it is questionable how much he really wants to be there – as opposed to his tour of choice stateside.