Danish fans look to Bjorn

 

Golf: One-third of Denmark's 300,000 golfing enthusiasts are expected at the inaugural Nordic Open, which begins today, hoping for a head-to-head between their hero Thomas Bjorn and former European number one Colin Montgomerie.

Bjorn, a painful second in his last two events, the British Open and Irish Open, can make significant ground on current European money-list leader Ernie Els if he can delight the home gallery and go one better.

Montgomerie is appearing in his first event since pulling out of the British Open with a damaged right wrist after playing only seven holes.

"The wrist is not 100 per cent better but I've had three weeks off in July and August, something I've never done before, and I couldn't afford any more time off," said Montgomerie.

The Scot, who has played only nine holes practice at Valderrama, Spain, before going to Denmark, said: "I saw the doctor on Monday and he said if it didn't hurt, to go with it. It should be getting better and better every day."

The 40-year-old answered an accusation by a British newspaper that he had made too much of his injury, saying: "There is no way I would ever pull out of a tournament if I could go on. Whoever wrote that does not understand me as the competitive person I am."

Montgomerie insisted he was not treating Denmark's debut on the European Tour as a warm-up for next week's final major, the US PGA Championship, where he will be featuring in his 48th consecutive major.

But Bjorn (32) admitted: "If you ask me which is more important to win, the Nordic Open or the US PGA Championship, then it is no contest. I have to prepare myself for next week.

"But I think I'm good enough to win here and next week as well."

Bjorn is now targeting the US PGA title as a chance to put right his downfall at Royal St George's and wants to be in the best shape to do so.

"I want to try to get myself mentally and technically correct this week for what's going to happen next week," he said.

Last week's Scandinavian Masters runner-up, 21-year-old Briton Nick Dougherty, and compatriot Ian Poulter are among those set to give Bjorn and Montgomerie a run for their money.

Graeme McDowell and Peter Lawrie will lead a five-strong Irish challenge that also includes Gary Murphy, Damien McGrane and Ronan Rafferty.

A three-year agreement has been reached between The European Tour and the promoters, Danish Golf Company, and this year the event carries a prize fund of €1,600,000. The drive to bring tournament golf to Denmark has been led by Anders Sorensen, who along with Steen Tinning was the first Dane to join The European Tour and is now the chief executive officer of the Danish Golf Company.