Hot Topic: Why sympathy for Bjorn runs deep

'From personal experience I know what it

Bob Warters's picture
Mon, 4 Jul 2005
Hot Topic: Why sympathy for Bjorn runs deep

Thomas Bjorn – tragedy at the 17th hole

Every club golfer will this morning be able to relate to and sympathise with Thomas Bjorn.

Okay he’s got millions in the bank, is a sporting hero in his native Denmark, has won Ryder Cups and 13 events as a professional around the world. But for his game to be stripped naked in front of thousands of spectators and millions on television must be the ultimate embarrassment.

For those who missed it, the Wentworth-based golfer led by four shots going into the final round of the European Open at the K Club near Dublin yesterday and after a shaky start looked to have steadied the ship to hold a narrow lead after 14 holes on the Palmer course.

Two bogeys put him behind clubhouse leader Kenny Ferrie, as he mounted the 17th tee, jutting out like a jetty into the River Liffey, which threads through the course. But he still had chance to recover.

Last year at this event, Bjorn walked off the adjacent Smurfit course complaining that ‘demons’ had scrambled his golfing brain. They seemed to pay a return visit on that 17th tee as he smashed three successive tee shots into the water attempting the 200-yard carry to the fairway.

He found dry land with his fourth effort and eventually signed for a seven over par 11 (including six penalty shots) and an overall 86 - the worst round of his professional career.

I’ve hit shots off that tee (the hole measures 424 yards) and it’s a frightening prospect – even with nothing but a couple of quid side bet at stake. For a seasoned professional in the running for a £400,000 first prize the mental strength to take on such a gaping hazard demands is huge.

That’s why this hole will have immense significance when the Ryder Cup comes to town next year. It may even have a plaque beside it – ‘Tommy’s terror’ – identifying how a Great Dane suddenly became a timid terrier on the tee.

Imagine a player, even two up with two to play, faced with such a fearsome prospect of just trying to keep the ball dry.

The 17th at the K Club has suddenly become one of the world’s toughest – ranked alongside the 17th (Road hole) at St Andrews, the 18th at Doral (rated the hardest of the PGA Tour) and the 11th at Royal Troon.

Bjorn was criticised in the television commentary for not having a ‘stock shot’ he could rely on when the going gets tough and you need to hang on.

But from personal experience I know what it’s like when you almost feel like a beginner again. Your natural instincts are in shreds.

It happened to me a few years ago when playing the Nicklaus course at Carden Park. I’d been playing tidily but was intimidated by the length demanded off the tee to get the ball in play.

I started suffering with the yips with my driver. I couldn’t take the club away from the ball in the take-away. The club would ‘get stuck’ as my hands reach shoulder height. I eventually completed the round using only 5-iron and a putter to bunt the ball round the course.

All of us must feel sympathy for Bjorn as so many of us can relate to his misfortunate – to the fear and trepidation of feeling your game drain away from you down a giant golfing plughole.

Many of you must have similar experiences. Exorcise your demons by sharing them on the forum.