Birdie burst puts Bjorn in the lead

A late birdie burst by Thomas Bjorn has put the Dane into a 54-hole lead at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters in Doha.

A late birdie burst by Thomas Bjorn put the Dane into a 54-hole lead at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters in Doha on Saturday.
The former Ryder Cup star, who last October was one of Colin Montgomerie’s vice-captains at Celtic Manor, birdied four of the last five holes to move from one behind overnight leader Austrian Markus Brier to one in front.
Bjorn, 40 in less than a fortnight, added a bogey-free 66 to his second-round 65 and will resume the chase for the £260,967 first prize on 11 under par.
Brier, ranked only 478th in the world, was left to rue bogey sixes on both the ninth and 18th as he handed in a 69.
First his approach flew over the green, then he was twice in the dense rough right of the final fairway and had to lay up short of the water with his third shot.
Defending champion Robert Karlsson remains a threat three strokes behind Bjorn in third spot, outdoing even the leader with five birdies in his last seven holes for a 69.
As for German Martin Kaymer, who needs a top-two finish to go to world number one, a 68 lifted him only from 57th to 28th and so Lee Westwood, who crashed out at halfway, looks set to remain the sport’s leading man for at least one more week.
Bjorn, who had his first victory for four years in Portugal last season, said: “I didn’t drive the ball particularly well, but I fought well and when I hit the fairways I took my chances.
“Yesterday I played fantastically and today was not as good, but there was a lot of heart and soul and that’s what you need sometimes.”
The chairman of the circuit’s tournament committee started his run with a curling 18-footer at the 14th and finished with three more birdies, pitching over the lake to within three feet of the flag on the last.
Brier, who did not have a single top-20 finish on the tour last year and had to go back to the qualifying school in November, is playing on a sponsor’s invitation and could yet reignite his career in dramatic fashion.
He had birdied the fourth and sixth before his slip at the ninth and picked up more strokes on the 11th, 12th and 16th thanks to a 25-foot putt.
South African Thomas Aiken is in fourth place on seven under, four behind, and one further back come 2009 winner Alvaro Quiros and England’s Richard Finch.
Sergio Garcia’s 69 put him alongside Kaymer on one under, but Ian Poulter dropped back to one over with a 74 and Americans John Daly and Steve Stricker are down on two over and four over respectively.
Perhaps the biggest surprises, though, were that Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez, joint runners-up in Bahrain last Sunday, shot 76 and 79 and are bringing up the rear of the field.