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Batten the Hatches Bjorn Has Arrived

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.
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