Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn overcame testing conditions and an encounter with overhead power lines to make the perfect start to his bid to seal a Ryder Cup place on home soil.
Bjorn has not played in the biennial contest since 2002 but has occupied an automatic qualifying spot since winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in December last year.
The 43-year-old dropped out of the European points list recently and is now relying on the world points list, but looks to have done enough to make the European team which will defend the trophy at Gleneagles in September.
Victory in the inaugural Made In Denmark event would make absolutely certain and Bjorn was determined to impress a sell-out crowd, with more than 70,000 spectators expected at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, where Bjorn won his first event as a professional in 1995.
The world number 24 duly delivered, carding a flawless opening 66 to share the lead with Chile’s Felipe Aguilar and Welshman Bradley Dredge on five under par. Fellow Dane Thorbjorn Olesen was three behind after a 69.
“It was obviously tricky with the wind, but I drove the ball well and that gives you opportunities on this course,” Bjorn said.
Starting from the 10th, Bjorn opened with four straight pars before birdies at the 14th and 15th took him to the turn in 34, and, although winds gusting to more than 25mph were making scoring conditions difficult, Bjorn was having few problems.
He chipped in from just off the third green for birdie and holed from eight feet for another on the next before coming up against an unusual hazard, his approach to the fifth hitting overhead power cables and coming up short of the green.
Bjorn was required to drop another ball and retake the shot, this time finding the putting surface and two-putting for par.
Aguilar carded his fourth birdie in a row on the eighth to briefly take the lead, but Bjorn – watching in the group behind – responded with a superb approach to two feet when the green cleared.