Thomas Bjorn crafts out fine 68 at Augusta
43-year-old Dane claims second round to be “right up there” with the best of his career
Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn fires a seven-iron approach to eight feet on the 16th to complete a hat-trick of birdies during his second-round 68.
After a hard day’s work, a man is entitled to put his feet up. Thomas Bjorn agreed. He retreated to his rented house – a place he can call home for the week – to do just that after a second round 68 yesterday, crafted with patience which is a trait that hasn’t always been a bedfellow.
The score – which featured a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th – enabled the so-called ‘Great Dane’ to reach the midpoint of this 78th Masters on 141, three under, and among those in closest pursuit of Bubba Watson.
Whether or not that chase will prove to be a forlorn one remains to the seen, but Bjorn – enjoying his golf these days and currently second on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings – is the dogged sort, not one to go down without a fight. It’s in his character.
Bjorn has had his moments in the Majors, not all of them good. This is his 52nd appearance on one of golf’s showcase examinations and, as of now, he hasn’t yet got his hands on a prized piece of silverware.
He’s had his moments, for sure. In the 2003 British Open at Royal St Georges, two up with three holes to play, he seemed destined to get his hands on the Claret Jug. That is, until he found a greenside trap on the par-three 16th and took three to escape. Bjorn, cutting an increasingly abject figure, seemed to have a shovel in his hands rather than a sand wedge. Ben Curtis stole in to take the title.
Two years later, in the 2005 US PGA championship at Baltustrol, Bjorn went down to the wire in his quest to be the spoilsport in the story that was all about Phil Mickelson and stretched into a Monday finish due to the weather. Bjorn would finish a shot shy.
Now, here he is, playing some of the best golf of his career. Bjorn’s last win – of 21 worldwide – came in last December’s Nedbank Challenge and he has been solid in his outings this year without setting the world alight.
An opening round 73 on Thursday left him somewhat frustrated, but he atoned in full yesterday with a round that featured a strong finish which was actually spurred on by his failure to birdie the 13th.
On that par-five 13th in two, after two great shots, Bjorn three-putted and walked off with a par. “I felt like I had to be a little bit more aggressive in my golf and I took on the shots on 14 and 16 and they paid off,” said Bjorn of a round he claimed to be “right up there” with the best of his career.
“I tried to do the right things and I executed it well. It’s right up there. I felt comfortable on the golf course, and that’s always a sign that you’ve got a good idea of where your golf swing is and how you’re hitting the ball.
“Because if you’re not in control of what you’re doing, you don’t feel comfortable on this golf course,” claimed Bjorn. “You always worry about that back nine, you don’t really know where it’s going to go,” added Bjorn.
He needn’t have worried. A bogey on the 11th seemed to sharpen his senses and his failure to birdie 13th only increased that need to deliver. On the 14th, he hit an eight-iron approach to 18 feet and rolled in the birdie putt; followed by hitting a lob wedge approach to 10 feet on the 15th, and then fired a seven-iron approach to eight feet on the 16th for a hat-trick of birdies.
A pulled drive on the 17th – “it would certainly have hit the Eisenhower Tree if it was there” – left his ball on the adjoining seventh fairway and led to bogey, but he finished in style with a birdie on the 18th.
“I came out here last year and played very poor. I think I finished inside the top 30 or whatever,” said Bjorn, who actually finished tied-46th a year ago.
“I just felt like I’ve learned so much from that week last year that, even without playing great, I could find a way around the golf course, put myself in positions. And it was probably the first time I really understood the golf course completely. I came in this week and I just felt like, ‘that’s what you have to do’.
“And then if you play well, then you’ve got a chance of putting numbers together.” However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, dropping a shot on the par-three fourth where he hit it in the left bunker and a poor drive on the 11th led to a dropped shot.
Before heading off to hit some ball son the range and then onward to put his feet up, Bjorn was asked how he liked his position. “It’s better than most,” he replied, a slight grin creasing his face. The weekend beckons.