Batten the Hatches Bjorn Has Arrived

By George WhiteFebruary 19, 2004, 5:00 pm
So Thomas Bjorn rolls into LA, the second stop on a Conquer America tour that is scheduled to last all of 2004.
Uh he looks pretty serious. He comes directly from San Diego, where he finished in a tie for fourth in the Buick. Before that, he played against a pretty strong field in Bangkok and wound up tied for second at the Johnnie Walker, two shots behind winner Miguel Angel Jimenez. This week he strides up to the Nissan.
We most vividly remember Bjorn with a three-shot lead going into the 15th hole on Sunday at the British Open. Alas, he bogeyed 15, then failed to get out of the sand until his third lash on 16. That meant double bogey on the par-3 hole, and when he bogeyed the 17th, he had lost the major to Ben Curtis.
Overcome with resolve in the middle of fashioning a revamped swing with coach Bob Torrance, he has roared out of the gate this year. Unfortunately for players on the PGA Tour, the man from Denmark has decided in his 34th year to at last try the American circuit. He made enough money last season in PGA Tour tournaments to grant him membership in the U.S - $548,412 in the British Open alone.
I've proven that I can play with the best at any given time, said Bjorn, who will hold dual membership on the U.S. and European tours this year. So I don't think I NEED to play in America. But I think that if you have any ambition in the game, you want to play at the highest level.
Bjorn has come so close in so many big tournaments, twice now finishing runner-up in the British. He defeated Tiger Woods, remember, in 2001 after Tiger had stood on the 18th tee with a one-shot lead at Dubai. Woods dunked his third-shot approach into the water on the par-5 hole, allowing Bjorn to zip past him and win the tournament. It was only the fourth time in his career that Tiger has surrendered the win when he led after three rounds.
Bjorn, incidentally, is one of Woods best European friends. Theyve occasionally played practice rounds together. And Bjorn has studied closely the words of Tiger ' so much so that Thomas has increasingly become a major worry.
'That's all he talks about with major championships - patience, patience, patience,' Bjorn has said.
Bjorn is playing in California for three successive tournaments ' Buick, Nissan and Accenture Match Play ' before he goes to Dubai for a European event. Then its right back to the U.S. for five weeks, including the Masters. After that he isnt sure which events he will play, though he will return to Europe for the summer where he plans to play a full schedule on that circuit, too.
Bjorn is well aware of what hes getting into. But he senses the years slipping away from him, and he figures hed better give America a shot while hes still in the prime of his career.
There's a big difference between playing golf in Europe and in America, he says. In America, the depth of the tour is just a little bit stronger. (In Europe) you might not play that well and still can grind out a result. In America, you've got to be on top of your game to get results.
Bjorn chatted with Ernie Els about the move. Ernie said full speed ahead, with a few precautions.
That's pretty much what his version to me of it is: Just make sure you're ready when you go and play in America. Don't feel like you can go into a tournament and feel like you can be a little bit rusty on your game and play your way into the tournament. Just make sure any time you go that you're ready to play, said Bjorn.
Both gents have seen the disasters that can come when a player tries to make the jump from Europe and America. Bjorn is extremely cautious about the move.
Very few players have been very, very successful doing that - playing both tours over a period. Ernie is probably the only one that I would say has consistently performed by doing it, he said.
There are a lot of players that have struggled by going to America and then trying to play in Europe and play Australia, South Africa and Asia over the winter. I don't know if it suits me, but if I don't try it I'm never going to find out.
So Bjorn is here, and a sneaking suspicion says he is up to no good. Beware of Danes bearing gifts, or something like that. This is no Doubting Thomas ' he is sure of himself, and the results of his initial try say he certainly should be.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - Nissan Open

  • Full Coverage - Nissan Open
  • Getty Images

    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

    Getty Images

    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

    Getty Images

    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

    Getty Images

    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."