Thomas Bjorn tied a mens major championship record Saturday, shooting 7-under 63 in the 87th PGA Championship to reach 5 under for the tournament.
This was a bonus. You set out on a day like this and you think, wow, youve got to just try and shoot a good number and get yourself into a position where you can do well for the tournament, he said. But now all of a sudden you bring yourself in a position where were starting to talk about (winning) the golf tournament.
Thats an appropriate choice of words.
After starting the day 10 strokes off the lead, Bjorn is just one back, just 18 holes from winning his first major championship. There are many reasons to be optimistic. And many reasons to be apprehensive.
It all looked so very good for Bjorn in the 2003 Open Championship. He was leading the tournament through 69 holes, before hitting his tee shot on the par-3 16th into the right greenside bunker.
Three swings later, the ball was finally extracted.
Bjorn made double bogey, and then bogeyed the next. He ultimately finished one stroke behind winner Ben Curtis.
In the death of his dream to become a major champion, demons were born.
Those mental gremlins got the better of him the following year at the European Tours Smurfit European Open, when he walked off the course after playing his first six holes of the tournament in 4 over.
The demons have taken over, he muttered.
They appeared to have relinquished control after he won this years Dunlop Masters. It was his first victory in over three seasons, his first triumph since burying his confidence in the sands of Royal St. Georges.
But they soon resurfaced, grabbing his internal steering wheel with both hands, trying to drive him over the edge.
A year after he walked away prematurely, disheartened and confused, Bjorn returned to the European Open and managed a four-stroke lead through 54 holes. He then shot 14-over 86 on Sunday, making an 11 on the par-4 17th.
I got out there on a Sunday on a very, very difficult golf course and it just got away from me. I didnt believe in anything. I didnt have a shot that I could go to when I was under pressure, he said.
Bjorn went on to miss the cut in his next start at the Open Championship. Needing a bogey to make it to the weekend, he hit his drive on the expansive 18th out of bounds and made double.
Thats when he decided to take a professional break, and make a change in his swing.
With the help of new coach Simon Holmes, Bjorn worked on, among other things, completing his turn during the backswing.
I went on holiday with my family for just about two weeks, and then I went to London and worked with my coach and made some big decisions, he said. We took the camera out and we said, Alright, is this the way I want to swing it? I looked at some old stuff myself where I know I had been playing well and hitting it well, so just made those decisions.
The changes, just two weeks old, are still in a pubescent stage. Bjorn is happily surprised at how quickly things have come together. Sunday, which may be his most important round of golf ever, will be about trying to keep it all from falling apart.
I have to have a lot of belief in my golf swing, and sometimes I dont. I dont believe enough in my golf swing and I take all of my mental strength from there. And I have that certainly going in the right direction right now, he said.
I came here with no expectations, and thats what Im going to keep doing tomorrow. Try and stay in the moment and hit those golf shots and focus on the things that Ive focused on, because its obviously working. Well see how tomorrow pans out.
At this years Masters, Bjorn entered the final round trailing leaders Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco by five strokes. He then closed in 81.
Heading into the final round at Baltusrol, Bjorn is clearly better positioned on the leaderboard, and seemingly better prepared physically and mentally.
Theres a lot of golfers out here that go through up-and-downs and you deal with it. If you want to be out here and you want to compete, you deal with your downs, he said.
You deal with it and you go from there, and thats what Im trying to do.