In successive seasons, 40-something players from Europe have inserted themselves back in the conversation among the best in the sport at a time when the game seems to be skewing younger at every level. With his second win in as many weeks at the Omega European Masters, Thomas Bjorn now has three European Tour titles this season.
Bjorn won four clear of Martin Kaymer in Switzerland to follow up on his five-hole playoff win last week at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Suddenly, he has tied world No. 1 Luke Donald for the most worldwide wins and most wins on the circuit this year.
The Dane’s 40th birthday season greatly resembles the year turned by Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez last year. Jimenez defied his age – then 46 – to win three times and be in the conversation for player of the year before Kaymer won a major and another event to secure the distinction.
Bjorn is likely to fall short of Donald, U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy or ultimate comeback player of the year Darren Clarke for any postseason awards. Despite his three wins, they’ve all come against fields that pale in comparison to those standout wins from the aforementioned.
Both players took an event in the Middle East at the onset of the year. Jimenez took the Dubai Desert Classic while Bjorn won a country over in Qatar. Each won a modestly stacked field in a playoff. Bjorn won last week in sudden death in a five-hole marathon against four other challengers. Jimenez took down a three-man playoff for the French Open.
And, bizarrely enough, both won the Omega European Masters as their third win. Bjorn won by four – one better than Jimenez’s margin.
Jimenez began 2010 at 49th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Bjorn opened ’11 at 124th in the ladder. They may end close to the same spot. The Mechanic fixed his ranking to 27 before Auld Lang Syne. Bjorn could get close to that mark with this win and a few more solid performances, especially considering the combined world ranking points for their three wins are eerily similar.
Tack on the exorcism of the ’03 Open Championship in July with a fourth place finish, though, and Bjorn may have had a better year than Jimenez already.