2005: PGA Analysis - Bjorn goes low, but European drought continues
After five hot, humid days on Baltusrol’s Lower Course, only two numbers mattered to Thomas Bjorn – 63 and 25.
On Saturday at the PGA Championship, Bjorn became the 20th player to sign for a 63 in a major. But the number that the Dane – who faded with a final-round 72 and finished a shot behind Phil Mickelson – will likely fixate on for some time is 25. That’s how many Grand Slam events have been played since the last European won a major.
Yet considering how things turned out for Bjorn at his last major, his tie for second at Baltusrol is almost as good as a victory.
Standing on the 18th tee in Round 2 at last month’s British Open, Bjorn needed only a bogey to make the cut. He hit his tee shot out of bounds, somehow missing one of golf’s widest fairways, and signed for a double bogey.
The next week, while on vacation with his family, Bjorn decided it was time for a change.
“You’ve got to make a decision that what you’re doing is probably not good enough,” said Bjorn, whose birdie attempt at the 72nd hole caught the right edge of the cup and trickled past.
After starting his week with steady rounds of 71, Bjorn joined an “A List” of players who’ve shot 63 in a major with the week’s best putting performance. He needed only 25 putts in Round 3 and closed his day with five consecutive one-putts.
“I don’t shoot very low rounds very often. I don’t really enjoy these 25 under par things,” said Bjorn, whose runner-up finish was his third in a major (2000 and ’03 British Opens). “To post this kind of number is certainly special. It’s a long list, but it’s certainly a good list to be a part of.”
Bjorn has kept his swing retooling simple by focusing on completing his backswing, which has kept him from hitting the ball right. Improving his mental focus on the course has not been so simple.
Since July, Bjorn has been working with Jamil Qureshi, a magician who specializes in a form of hypnosis called Neuro Lingustic Programming.
“We work on slowing him down. It’s been done under hypnosis,” Qureshi said. “The fact that he’s working with someone like myself shows he wants to change things.”
Bjorn’s swing and focus held up well under major pressure at the PGA. His performance was a marked improvement over the ’03 British Open, where he led by two strokes before double bogeying the 16th hole Sunday.
He birdied the Lower Course’s prodigious 17th from 12 feet, but he wasn’t as successful at the par-5 18th. He pulled his second shot into the left bunker and lipped out his 35-foot birdie putt that would have matched Mickelson at 4 under.
“If you stick your nose in often enough, the game is going to give you one one day,” Bjorn said.