Thomas Björn returns to Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenreid this week attempting to become the first player in the 15 year history of the BMW International Open to successfully defend title and also win the event three times, but he will first have to overcome a world class field that includes the current leader of the Volvo Order of Merit and World Number Two, Ernie Els.
Twelve months ago Björn captured the title for the second time in the space of three years when he finished four strokes ahead of England’s John Bickerton and Germany’s Bernhard Langer. Three years earlier, Langer was also runner-up to Björn in the only German tournament he has not yet won. Langer will be keen to put that statistic right after five second place finishes.
Björn arrives in Germany eager to add to his seven European Tour titles. Victory has so far eluded the Dane this season although he has come close to victory on a number of occasions, none more so than at the Open Golf Championship at Royal St George’s where he was narrowly defeated by American Ben Curtis. The following week was once again challenging for the top honours but was again pipped at the post when Michael Campbell won a three-man sudden-death play-off, which also included Sweden’s Peter Hedblom..
That was Björn’s second play-off defeat of the season, the first coming on German soil when he lost out to Padraig Harrington in the Deutsche-Bank SAP Open TPC of Europe. However, those three outstanding performances have helped elevate Björn into third place in the Volvo Order of Merit behind Els and Darren Clarke.
Els returns to Munich for the first time since finishing tied fifth in 2000 looking to further extend his lead at the top of the Volvo Order of Merit and add to his three European Tour titles won this season. Els has finished outside the top ten only once in ten European Tour stroke-play events this season and holds a commanding position at the top of the Volvo Order of Merit.
Langer makes his first appearance on home soil since accepting the role as Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain for The 35th Ryder Cup Matches to be played at Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, from September 17-19, 2004.
Other Major Champions in the field, in addition to Els and Langer, are Seve Ballesteros, 2002 BMW International Open Champion John Daly, Nick Faldo, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle and José Maria Olazábal.