2002: Bjorn smokes field, regains confidence

Nord-Eichenried, Germany

If you’re looking for confidence heading into the Ryder Cup, being mired in an 18-month title drought isn’t the ideal formula.

Thomas Bjorn, a Danish player who will play for the European Ryder Cup team Sept. 27-29 at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, took care of his confidence and erased his winless streak Sept. 1 at the BMW International Open.

“It is always nice for a captain to see that with less than a month to go our games are coming together,” Bjorn said. “I am sure (European Ryder Cup captain) Sam (Torrance) is sitting at home feeling very happy.”

Bjorn earned 300,000 euros ($294,390) for his eighth career victory, and is No. 13 on the Order of Merit. He shot 24 under at Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenried to beat John Bickerton and Bernhard Langer by four strokes.

Langer was trying for his 12th victory in his native Germany, but he failed in his bid to win the only German tournament he hasn’t captured. Langer also is a member of the European Ryder Cup team, however, and a tie for second did nothing to hurt his confidence.

Bjorn, while happy with his victory, also took note of his Ryder Cup teammate’s performance.

“It’s good for our competitiveness that Bernhard and I went out head-to-head as well,” Bjorn said. “That is the feeling of playing under pressure you need a few weeks before the Ryder Cup so you can go in there and feel comfortable about the situation you are going to be in.”

Buoyed by the home galleries, Langer applied the pressure on Bjorn from the outset Sunday, rolling in birdies on Nos. 2, 4 and 6, as well as chipping in to save par on Nos. 3 and 5. But for the third time since 1995 he had to settle for second place at the BMW. Langer, who started the final round two strokes behind Bjorn, shot 68 while Bjorn shot 66. Langer has finished second five times at the tournament.

“It would be great if I could win every tournament in Germany. I’ve tried – it just hasn’t worked,” Langer said. “I will come back next year and try and win this tournament to complete the set.”

Bjorn’s last victory came at the Dubai Desert Classic in March 2001, when he was paired with Tiger Woods for all four rounds and beat him by two strokes. His four-stroke victory in Germany, where he shot 68-64-66-66, was a picture in consistency.

“I played with Thomas all four rounds and he played very well all week,” said Langer. “Every time I made a birdie, he seemed to hit back with one of his own.”

England’s Bickerton was seeking his first European Tour victory, but even a final-round 66 wasn’t enough to catch Bjorn.

John Daly, who won this event last year, finished at 14 under, shooting 69 Sunday to finish 10 strokes back in a tie for 10th.

– From staff and wire reports

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