FIVE WAS THE NUMBER at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland. Five players—George Coetzee, Bernd Wiesberger, Pablo Larrazabal, Mark Foster and Thomas Bjorn—completed 72 holes at 11 under par. The five men headed back out to the 18th tee to settle the matter in a sudden-death playoff.
It took a while. The men played the 18th, a par 5, five times to decide the championship. The last two men standing were Bjorn and Coetzee, and then it was just Bjorn when his South African opponent couldn’t match his third straight birdie on the finishing hole.
It was Bjorn’s 12th career title on the European Tour and second victory this season.
“I’m delighted,” Bjorn said. “The way I played the last three playoff holes, I couldn’t be more proud. When I’m under the cosh I feel pretty calm and good.”
Foster was not delighted. A bogey at the 72nd hole prevented the Englishman from capturing his first tour win since 2005. Foster dropped out of the playoff after a bogey on the fourth extra hole.
While Hurricane Irene shortened The Barclays in New Jersey, fog and swarms of wasps disrupted play at Gleneagles. But the fog cleared and left a sunny Bjorn to contemplate his first-ever playoff win—and his first win since turning 40.
“If life begins at 40, then I’ve made a pretty good start!” he exclaimed.
It has been a very good year for the Dane, who now finds himself just outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Bjorn won the Qatar Masters in February and led the British Open at Royal St. George’s before finishing fourth. Fourteen months ago he won the Portuguese Open, breaking a four-year victory drought.
Indeed, Bjorn, which means bear in Danish, is looking strong at 40.
−The Armchair Golfer