Qatar win gives Bjorn opening to make amends at Open

Thomas Bjorn of Denmark celebrates after winning the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on February 6, 2011.

Thomas Bjorn of Denmark celebrates after winning the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on February 6, 2011.

Thomas Bjorn’s 11th career victory couldn’t have come at a more opportune time in his career. The win is the perfect 40th birthday present for the Dane, a milestone he will celebrate Feb. 18.

More importantly, the victory can go a long way toward helping him return to the scene of his greatest disappointment.

Bjorn is eager to get back to Royal St. George’s for this year’s Open Championship. Eight years ago, Bjorn blew a three-shot lead at St. George’s in the final round of the game’s oldest major.

Bjorn entered the Qatar Masters ranked 134th in the world but should move into the top 64 to earn a place in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, held Feb. 21-27 in Arizona.

“It’s a big win, and hopefully it can push me on to bigger things,” Bjorn said. “When I play like this, I know I can play against the best.”

Spain’s Alvaro Quiros began the final round five shots behind Bjorn. The Spaniard got within a stroke of Bjorn before a three-putt bogey at the 15th halted his charge. He also bogeyed the 17th to give Bjorn some breathing room over the closing holes.

Bjorn began the final round with 14 straight pars in difficult, windy conditions. Birdies at Nos. 15, 16 and 18 for a closing 69 gave him his second win in two years, following victory in Portugal last year.

“I knew if I stuck to my game plan, I would be all right,” he said. “Once I hit my tee shot on 18, I knew nothing could go wrong from there.

“We're fortunate as golfers that we can keep going at the highest level at this age. I've worked hard. I'm seeing the benefits of it, and this changes my travel plans a little bit – for the good.”

Top of his list of destinations this season will be the town of Sandwich on England’s south coast, location of Royal St. George’s and this year’s Open Championship. Bjorn could have made history there eight years ago by becoming the first Danish player to win the Open Championship.

The two-time Ryder Cup player might have won the championship if not for a double bogey at the par-3 16th, where he took three shots to escape a greenside bunker. Bjorn finished runner-up by a stroke to Ben Curtis.

Bjorn’s best finishes in the majors have come in the Open Championship. He has four top 10s, including two seconds. If he can get into the Open, then he is good enough to win it.

He just has to hope the journey that started in Qatar ends in Sandwich, England, with a tee time July 14 at Royal St. George’s.

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