Denmark’s Thomas Björn has won the Bahrain Invitational at the Royal Golf Club in a playoff with Paul Casey. The Englishman won the team prize together with Joe Montana.
Björn fired an excellent round of four-under-par 68 that was matched by Casey after he had made a crucial birdie three on the testing, closing hole.
The individual event was decided by a nearest the pin shootout on the home hole. Björn fired just beyond the pin from 140 yards while Casey came up short. But he was further away from the cup than Björn and the trophy went to the Dane.
The Bahrain Invitational featured four of Europe’s most respected professional golfers in the shape of Paul Casey, Thomas Björn, Colin Montgomerie and Suzann Pettersen as well as sporting stars Tim Henman, Joe Montana, Gianluca Vialli and Ruud Gullit.
The event was played in a fantastic spirit and, although there was a significant degree of competition between the players, the atmosphere was light-hearted and relaxed. It was a great opportunity for spectators to get close to the players and to witness some spectacular golf.
In the team event the pairs played three separate matches, each over six holes. In the first set of matches, Björn and Vialli saw off Montgomerie and Henman while Casey and Montana got the better of Pettersen and Gullit.
Over the second six holes Casey and Montana won against Björn and Vialli while Monty and Henman halved with Pettersen and Gullit. That looked to have secured the team prize for Casey and the former NFL Quarterback, but when Björn and Vialli beat Pettersen and Gullit, and Casey and Montana lost out to Henman and Monty, the teams were tied on two wins each.
The title went to Casey and Montana though, as they had triumphed in their match with Bjorn and Vialli.
Although there was a stiff breeze through the day, conditions were good for the tournament. It was a welcome change from the previous day when an incredible sand, then thunder, storm forced the pro-cel-am event to be cut to 16 holes.
Before the event His Excellency, Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa the Chief Executive of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, spoke of how pleased he was to welcome this event.
“We want to attract the best of the best events to Bahrain and we are very proud to have these sporting legends in the country,” he said. “Events like this are important for Bahrain, not just in a sporting sense but also economically and socially. And politically, some people don’t like to use that word but it’s true. In the 1970s a table tennis match between the US and China was instrumental in the two countries re-opening communications. Sport provides a common ground between countries and a way to open channels.”
The tournament comes a week ahead of the Formula 1, Bahrain Grand Prix. There was speculation that event might be cancelled owing to civil disturbances in the Kingdom, but the FIA confirmed yesterday that the race would go ahead as planned.