THE prospect of another round of golf does not always have Thomas Bjorn springing from his bed in the morning, but the experienced Dane said that Royal Melbourne’s charms had fired him up for his opening round at the World Cup of Golf.
The 42-year-old Dane carded a five-under 66 to earn a share of the lead with American Kevin Streelman, the pair sitting a shot ahead of a group that includes Martin Laird, after stealing the limelight from the likes of favourites Adam Scott (75) and Matt Kuchar (71) at the famed sandbelt course.
Designed by renowned course architect Alister McKenzie, Royal Melbourne’s layout of short holes has become vulnerable to modern golf’s long hitters, but continues to punish risk-takers severely for the slightest of transgressions.
With troublesome breezes and the sun baking the greens flint hard, most of the 60-man field toiled through bogey-strewn back nines, but Bjorn was a model of control as he drained seven birdies.
“You know, you wake up in the morning and, when you are 42 years old, it’s not every time you wake up and think, ‘I am going to go and play golf today’,” Bjorn said.
“But when you are going to go and play Royal Melbourne, you kind of get excited about it. It is, in my eyes, probably the finest golf course you can ever play. You can’t get carried away. You have got to play smart golf and I could play [it] every day for the rest of my life.”
Streelman also sang the course’s praises, despite being burned by bogeys on the treacherous 16th and 18th holes after having roared into a two-stroke lead with a run of five birdies in six holes prior to his first dropped shot. “It’s just an incredible golf course. It’s a treat to play. I really love it and was able to keep the ball below the holes,” said Streelman “Some of those pin positions were rather difficult and it is a course you have to be so careful on.”
Following a revamp, individual honours are the main focus in the event, which was solely a team competition in the past. Denmark and the US share the lead in the team component, with Scotland lying joint fourth on one under after Laird’s 67 and a 74 from Stephen Gallacher.