Bjorn back in the big leagues

Thomas Bjorn received the best early 40th birthday present he could have hoped for – victory at the Qatar Masters.

Thomas Bjorn received the best early 40th birthday present he could have hoped for – victory at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters in Doha.

The Dane turns 40 in just twelve days time, and can celebrate the milestone with a superb European Tour victory – his first since June of last year, and the 11th of his career.

Ranked only 134th in the world, Bjorn’s form in Doha suggests he is a far better player than that. His victory was a commanding one, as he seized control after the third round and never let it slip, taking the win by four clear shots over Spain’s Alvaro Quiros with a closing 69. In fact, he didn’t card a single bogey in his final 47 holes.

Ranked as high as 10th in the world at one stage, the win is a huge boost to the former Ryder Cup star. It has secured him a place into the 64-man field for the Accenture world match play championship in Arizona later this month, and has given his chances of gaining a spot into July’s Open, the tournament where he blew a three-shot lead over the closing stretch in 2003, a welcome boost.

Bjorn, who has vice-captained the Ryder Cup team twice and is the current chairman of the Tour’s tournament committee, took great satisfaction from proving that he can still deliver out on the course.

“It’s a big win and hopefully it can push me onto bigger things,” he said. “When I play like this I know I can play against the best.”

Bjorn didn’t have it all his own way, as Alvaro Quiros made a charge on the back nine to close the gap to only one shot after 14 holes. A three-putt on the 15th halted his progress, however, while Bjorn managed to birdie that hole after a superb approach shot left him only four feet on the green. Further birdies on the 16th and 18th put the result beyond question.

“I knew if I stuck to my game plan I would be all right,” said Bjorn. “Once I hit my tee shot on 18 I knew nothing could go wrong from there.

“We’re fortunate as golfers that we can keep going at the highest level at this age. I’ve worked hard. I’m seeing the benefits of it and this changes my travel plans a little bit – for the good.”

Markus Brier and Rafael Cabrera-Bello finished in joint third place, while England’s David Howell, ranked only 352nd in the world, made a welcome return to form to finish alone in fifth.

Elsewhere, Spaniard Sergio Garcia managed a top-10 finish after a closing 68 – his best result in almost a year.

For World No 2 Martin Kaymer, 26, it was the very opposite.

An in-form Kaymer teed off in Doha on Thursday brimful of confidence after his eight-shot victory at Abu Dhabi two weeks previously and with a strong chance of ousting out-of-form Lee Westwood as the World No 1, but the young German failed to capitalise on his chance, even though Westwood missed the cut

Kaymer needed a top-two finish to become No1 but after opening with a nightmarish 77, he was never able to get back into the hunt on a course that clearly didn’t suit him and eventually could only manage a tie for 28th place.