Tuesday, 23 January 2018
Thomas Bjorn  (Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn (Getty Images)

Thomas Bjørn relived one of the finest victories of his career as he prepares for his 22nd appearance at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The Dane held off a dominant Tiger Woods, who was the reigning US Open Championship and The Open Championship winner, to win this event in 2001 by two strokes with a then-course record of 22-under-par at Emirates Golf Club. 

Stephen Gallacher, the 2013 winner, and Rory McIlroy in 2015 are the only players to match Bjørn's aggregate score at the United Arab Emirates course, and the EurAsia Cup winning captain admitted he still ranks his victory over the American as one of the best among his 15 European Tour titles.

"It's right up there," the 46 year old said. "I caught a certain Mr Woods at the peak of career. (Usually) in those circumstances you had to hang onto shirt-tails because he was running away with golf tournaments pretty much every week.

"So to have performance, where I spent four days with him on the golf course and had that heated battle, it would obviously sit right up there

"I value all the victories I've had but (especially) this one in particular. It is a special place for me, I will always hold it in high regard for what it's given to me, but also for what those four days were."

You can't help but think that European golf is in very good hands right now - Thomas Bjørn

Bjørn has noticed a sea change in recent years, with the depth of talent in world golf making tournaments more open than perhaps they once were.

There has been a different winner at each of the last ten Major Championships, while the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm have made their mark on the world stage in the past year.

And Bjørn believes the cream of the crop will push each other on and get even better.

He said: "If you are surrounded by players that are equally as good as you and push you along, then you're going to achieve more.

"That's where it became extremely difficult in the Tiger era when he was at his best because people felt 'no matter how well I play, he's going to be better than us'.

"So it was difficult to have that feeling of 'if I play my best, I'm going to win'. There was one guy, if he played A minus, he was still going to win.

"But this group of guys, they are very equal. They are very equal in the way they play their game and that pushes them along in training, in practice, in eating correctly and doing all the right things.

"And when you look at them today compared to my time, these are athletes, all of them, full-on athletes. When you look at Rory (McIlroy), you look at Jason Day, you look at Dustin Johnson, you look at them as individuals, they are full-on athletes. That's the way they live their lives.

"So they will push each other and I think golf will benefit from that. I think we have seen a lot of good stuff, but I think that the best is yet to come."

With Race to Dubai champion Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Rahm all tasting victory at the weekend, Dane Bjørn believes European golf is in rude health.

Fleetwood successfully defended his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA title on the European Tour, while Spanish duo Garcia and Rahm won in Singapore and America respectively.

Bjørn added: "When you wake up on Monday morning and Sergio has won in Singapore and Tommy has won in Abu Dhabi and Jon has won on the PGA TOUR, you can't help but think that European golf is in very good hands right now."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LI, HaotongCHN18-23
2MCILROY, RoryNIR18-22
3HATTON, TyrrellENG18-20
4LEVY, AlexanderFRA18-19
5PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-17
T6RAMSAY, RichieSCO18-16

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