Reaching For The Claret Jug- Day One
To any one who has played this silly game we know how fickle the Golf Gods can be in treating us from day to day. So we can probably relate somewhat to the oddity that 40 year-old Thomas Bjorn must feel today tied for the lead in the Open Championship after day one.
The last time Bjorn was at Royal St. Georges he was leading the 2003 Open Championship by three shots with four holes to play on the final day only to see it all wiped out when it took him a fateful three swipes to extricate himself from the greenside bunker on the sixteenth hole. The agony of watching his pitch hit the green and roll right back into the bunker at his feet multiple times was something few golf fans will ever forget.
The Dane was not even in this 2011 Open Championship until late Monday evening where, as the sixth alternate for the event, he got his opportunity to play when Vijay’s chiropractor told him to rest his sore back and stay out of the harsh climates of southern England this weekend. With little or no “major preparation” Bjorn resigned himself to treat this Open Championship as “a bit of a joyride” and just see what happens.
What happened on Day One is that the Golf Gods embraced Bjorn and granted him this day a wonderful swing, straight driving, brilliant iron play, and a sizzling putter on the quirky links of Royal St. Georges. Typical links golfing day on the eastern coast of England, charcoal grey skies, temperature around 50 degrees, winds a good 20 mph and gusting-players were wearing wooly hats, winter gloves, rain pants, and layers of gortex to deal with the elements. Bjorn ignored all that and played unconsciously hitting 11/14 fairways where the average pro hit less than 7, 12 greens in regulation where the average was about 10, 25 putts where the average was close to 30, and he had 12 one-putt greens which clearly qualified him for being in the zone. He made 7 birdies and 2 bogies on the way to 5 under and a piece of the first round lead in the Open Championship at a venue where his personal locker must be brimming with psychological demons.
Bjorn actually has a history of going low in individual rounds at majors-he shot 63 in the 2005 PGA at Baltusrol-and he does have six top ten finishes in majors over his career including three runner-ups. His 11 European Tour wins-the most recent being the 2011 Qatar Masters in February-show that this man has a golf pedigree, but who would have thunk him coming back to this place that treated him so harshly and playing so well the next time in competition.
There is no telling how those unpredictable spirits will treat Thomas over the next three days but at least for the moment he can sense that the jug is within reach again-something I doubt even he had the audacity to consider when he got that call from the R & A on Monday night. Today’s performance does show how mentally tough he is and how character and focus can sometimes trump adversity in this game.