The 140th Open Championship had only been a few hours old when the interview room in the media centre was gripped with high emotion.
Thomas Bjorn had already woven a classic sporting tale upon the blustery links at Royal St George’s. Here was the man who seemed to be marching towards the first Major title of his fine career in the 2003 Open along this same links, until he took three out of a greenside bunker on the 16th and virtually handed the Claret Jug to Ben Curtis on a silver plate. The members at St George’s have named the infamous trap Bjorn’s bunker ever since.
Bjorn, 40, only qualified for this week’s field on Monday night as an alternate, following the late withdrawal of the injured Vijay Singh, and he only played a single practice round before teeing off at 7:25 on Thursday. This a golfer, by the way, who has missed the cut in three of his last five
starts, but none of this poor form or rushed preparation mattered at all once Denmark’s most accomplished golfer was on the course.
A round of 65, five under par, was better than any score Bjorn has posted in The Open in his 13 previous appearances, going back to 1996. Seven birdies including three in a row on 14, 15 and on that 16th comfortably out-weighed a pair of dropped shots, to give Bjorn the early, outright lead
in the first round.
Afterwards, Bjorn was characteristically candid when discussing his round and his recollections from 2003 in his press conference, until he was asked how proud his late father would have been, who died in May following a long illness.
The question stopped Bjorn in his tracks. At first he tried to answer but the words would not come out, and he sat back to take a deep breath, his eyes welled with tears. The mediator asked Bjorn if he would like to go on to the next question, but he regained his composure and simply
replied: “He meant a lot to me. He would have been very proud of what I did today. That’s all I’ve really got to say.”
Forget objectivity – here’s hoping Bjorn can maintain his equilibrium on the golf course for three more rounds.
Elsewhere on the golf course, it has been an anti-climax in the first round for pre-tournament favourite and crowd favourite Rory McIlroy golf’s new global icon. A missed four-footer for par at the first seemed to set the tone for McIlroy¹s round, although having slipped to two-over-par after three holes, the US Open champion found his footing to shoot 71, one over par. By the end of the day this score might turn out to be a better than it looked at the time.
Article courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, patron of the Open Championship