Commentary: Bjorn's rise comes after a deep fall
Thomas Bjorn has his hunger back and is feasting on European Tour events.
It’s a far cry from where he was not too long ago.
The Dane’s victory in the Omega European Masters was his second in a row following the Johnnie Walker Classic at Gleneagles, and his third of the season.
Not bad for a guy who seemed past his sell-by date two years ago.
Thomas Bjorn had lost his mojo at the end of 2009. Down to 250th in the world, he turned up at European tournaments to make up the numbers. He seemed headed for obscurity.
“I lost my appetite for the game,” he said. “I’d get in the car going to the airport and I wouldn’t want to go. I really, really lost my love for the game.”
Bjorn not only lost his love of the game, but his game too.
“I was terrible, swing-wise- for a few years. I never felt any control over my game. Once we lose control of what we’re doing, it’s hard to play and to look forward to playing.”
Bjorn took a long, hard look in the mirror at the end of that season. A long-time pupil of Pete Cowen's, Bjorn went off by himself and took his swing apart.
“I went away for a few days by myself, the back end of '09. I just started fooling around on the range myself and started getting a bit of control back. So I quickly found my desire to play. I was looking forward to going to golf tournaments and playing again, and trying to win again.”
Bjorn’s belief paid off when he won the Portuguese Open last year. He knew then that he still could win on the European Tour. However, his three wins this year can be pegged to his experience of helping Europe win the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor 12 months ago.
Bjorn didn’t play on the 2010 team. He acted as one of Colin Montgomerie’s vice captains. That role turned into something of an epiphany.
“Walking around that Ryder Cup, I knew that at my best I’m easily competitive with these guys,” Bjorn said.
He proved that true when he began this year by winning the Qatar Masters. Then came a life-changing experience that altered Bjorn’s outlook.
Bjorn’s father, Ole, died in May this year. He was 73 and suffered from pancreatic cancer.
“You find out it is only golf, a game. We’re not having the worst of times. So you have to put life in perspective.
“My career is not focused 100 percent on golf like it was five years ago. Maybe getting my priorities right is doing me good. Maybe it’s why I’m playing better now than I have done. I’m not so buried in it.”
Bjorn can’t get as focused on his game as he did five years ago. He is chairman of the European Tour’s 15-man tournament committee. Much of his time is spent looking after the interests of European Tour members.
Earlier this year, Bjorn said his main desire was to get back to playing at the highest level.
“I want to get back to the top 50 in the world. The hunger is still there. I still have a massive amount I want to achieve. I want to give myself a realistic chance of winning a major championship. I want to play in the Ryder Cup.”
Bjorn’s back-to-back wins moved him to 27th on the Official World Golf Ranking after having been No. 250 at the end of 2009. He contended at this year’s Open Championship at Royal St. George's, finishing fourth eight years after three shots in a bunker ruined his chance of becoming the first Scandinavian male major winner.
As for the Ryder Cup, his most recent win puts him atop the European points list and in pole position to appear at Medinah in Chicago next year.
There’s a long way to go before the European team is decided. Nevertheless, don’t doubt Bjorn’s ability to make that team. Everything seems within his reach now.