Aug 30 2011 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
Money, money, money for Bjorn again Thomas
THEY don’t allow five-balls on the tee at Gleneagles, ordinarily, reports Gordon Bannerman.
But the finale of the tightest ever Johnnie Walker Championship was anything but ordinary, with a handful locked together on 11 under,
So shortly before 5pm on a bone-chilling August Sabbath masquerading as autumn, European Tour professionals assembled for a dramatic shoot-out in the Glen and marshals turned a blind eye to such peculiar goings-on.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger’s wild drive put paid to his prospects and a four-ball re-assembled on the 18th tee, with the gallery gathered in the evening gloom checking their watches, travel plans and lighting-up time.
Pessimists pondered when the clocks went back.
Next to fall victim in a brutal war of attrition was Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal and then Englishman Mark Foster dropped by the wayside, left to rue a regulation final hole bogey six which saw the title slip from his grasp.
It was left to Thomas Bjorn and a gloved-up South African David Coetzee to clamber up the oft-criticised closing PGA Centenary Course fairway for a fifth time.
Ultimately, it was potential Ryder Cup 2014 skipper Bjorn who held his nerve in an unprecedented test of stamina and endurance over the Big County course.
It also turned into an examination of the staying power of hardy Scottish golf fans before Bjorn chalked-up another one for the 40-plus gang with a third consecutive birdie crafted by a sublime 150-yard seven iron approach shot tagged a potential career best.
The final two foot short putt dropped and Bjorn’s relief was shared by shovering fans as the pipe band could finally tune-up for a presentation ceremony.
Body-swerving Ryder Cup captaincy conjecture, the winner, a recent contender for the 2011 Open, insisted the form he had demonstrated at Gleneagles would warrant a place in the team.
But he admitted: “Any player asked to be a Ryder Cup captain would never turn it down but that is three years down the line.
“Let’s get Medinah out of the way and see what happens.”
But after clinching his second Tour win of the season – the first was
in Qatar – and seeing off younger contenders, the Dane added: “It’s the year of the guys over 40. Experience still shines through at times. I might be 40 but it’s not over yet.
“There was always a chance it was going to drag on in the play-off. It was tiring. It is a long hole, uphill and it was cold. But it was good fun. It doesn’t happen very often and it certainly made for some excitement.
“This is special for me, given the way it was done. We got rid of one at a time. I just had to keep going. When you have a chance you have to try and grab it.”
Bjorn, who praised Scott Fenwick and his greenkeepers for a course which “is getting better and better,” secured the £233,330 cheque and his 12th Tour title, leaving the faltering four with £93,000 consolation prizes.
Tournament chairman Colin Montgomerie finished six over, dashing round the course on his own earlier in the day.
Top Scot was Stephen Gallacher, who missed a birdie putt chance at 18 which would have squeezed his way into the sudden death shoot-out. Rookie pro Ian Redford, a former King James VI amateur, missed the cut with rounds of 80 and 77 on his Tour debut.
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