Bjorn's 62 sets early pace at BMW PGA
VIRGINIA WATER, England – With apologies to the late Dylan Thomas, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn is determined not to go gentle into that good night. That much was obvious from the way he manhandled Wentworth’s West Course with a course-record-tying 10-under 62 to take the early lead in the €4.75 million ($6.485 million) BMW PGA Championship.
Not bad for a guy who so hated the changes that Ernie Els made to the layout in 2010 he had a heated, face-to-face argument with Els about the issue. Talk about a potential heavyweight contest.
It's a funny old game, this golf. Bjorn missed the cut in Spain last week and arrived here low on confidence. In other words, he didn’t see a 62 in the cards.
“Last week was awful, and I was starting to feel a bit frustrated with things,” Bjorn said. “In practice, it hasn't been great either. To go out on this golf course, of all places, and play like I did today is a little bit surprising.”
Bjorn called it the greatest round of his career, even though he has shot 62 on two previous occasions. “It was just one of those days where you walk off the golf course and you want to keep playing.”
Bjorn’s round was bogey free. He played the front nine in 32 strokes and the back in 30 blows to tie a record that Robert Karlsson held, albeit Karlsson’s round in 2010 was 9 under because the layout played as a par 71.
Bjorn, 43, has found a new lease of life in the past few years. Why? He’s determined to “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” to quote Dylan Thomas again.
Bjorn’s career went into a downward spiral six years ago. He finished 101st on the money list in 2008, and 91st a year later. Then came a life changing moment.
Bjorn got his mojo back while acting as vice captain to Colin Montgomerie during the 2010 Ryder Cup. “I realized walking around Celtic Manor that week that at my best I was good enough to play with the best players in the world.”
Bjorn took a long hard look at himself and realized it was time to get his act together. He knew what was needed to do to compete with the world’s best.
“Hard work. Determination to not let a golf career fade away. You get to a stage in your life where you've got to make decisions and you've got to stand there and say, Well, do I want to do this? And if you're going to do it, you've got to work hard because everybody else does.
“I've just been determined to get myself in where I can play with the best in the world. I think you get to a stage where you kind of can see the end, so you just want to enjoy the last bit, but it comes with a lot of hard work.”
Bjorn lived beside the West Course’s 15th hole for nine years. Despite that affiliation, Bjorn’s record here is not good. He was fifth here in 1998, but has five missed cuts, and his best other finish is 16th, in 2009. He hasn’t really factored since Els altered the Harry Colt layout. Bjorn tied for 40th last year and tied for 43rd the year before.
“I've got no excuses for not knowing it very well," Bjorn said. "It's a great golf course. I just never really felt like I've been comfortable on it.”
Bjorn leads the European Tour money list. While ending the season as European No. 1 would be high on his list of priorities, it is second behind making the European Ryder Cup team for the third time.
Bjorn ranks third on the European points list. Victory here would practically seal his spot on Paul McGinley’s European team that will meet the U.S. at Gleneagles this September.
Two Ryder Cup appearances is poor for a guy with 15 European Tour victories. He debuted in 1997, but hasn’t played since 2002. He also served as vice captain two years ago in the European victory at Medinah.
“I've watched a lot from the sidelines, and that can hurt a little bit at times," he said. "I wanted to play in another Ryder Cup, and I've got to stay focused and determined to keep playing good golf to get there. I'm determined to do that.”
Not many would bet against him being at Gleneagles in September.