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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Bunkered Bjorn's sandy sorrow
By Tom Fordyce

Will you remember this year's Open for Ben Curtis' winning putt on the 18th?

Thomas Bjorn fails to get out of the bunker on the 16th
Bjorn splashes out on the 16th... for a third time

Only if your name is Ben Curtis. For the rest of us, Royal St George's will forever be linked with the sight of Thomas Bjorn, two shots clear with three to play, drowning in the sand of the 16th.

Now is probably not the best time to point out to Bjorn the irony of a man based in Dubai coming to grief in a small patch of sand in southern England.

Had his approach shot to the green been three feet to the left, he would almost certainly have won his first Major.

It wasn't. The bunker caught him in its teeth, bit hard and then refused to let go, even when Bjorn and the watching world thought he was clear.

Amateur players regularly suffer from the bungee-bunker scenario. Swoosh goes the wedge, up goes the ball and - hey presto - you think you're out.

And then - boing - back it comes. But it shouldn't happen to a pro, not at the Open, not when the biggest win of your life is mere moments away.

"It was an expensive mistake," said a crestfallen Bjorn, with considerable understatement.

"You have to be totally ready, mentally. It came too fast. It was a hard moment. I played wonderful golf, but I let it slip."

GREAT GOLF COLLAPSES
Jean van de Velde, 1999 Open
Triple-bogeyed 18th and lost in subsequent play-off
Doug Sanders, 1970 Open
Missed three-foot putt on 18th for championship
Arnold Palmer, 1966 US Open
Seven shots ahead with nine holes to play; lost eventual play-off
Sam Snead, 1935 US Open
Needed bogey six on 18 to win but took eight

Bjorn has every right to feel sore. For he was not the only man at Sandwich to choke on the back nine.

A chap by the name of Ben Curtis dropped four shots in six holes during the final, tension-gripped stages of Sunday's play, yet he went on to win the Open.

Where is the justice in that? Well, Curtis had given himself enough of a cushion with his birdies on the front nine to survive. And when he sank his 10-footer on the 18th green he had no idea that it was the shot that would win him the championship.

The final leaderboard was littered with big names who failed to produce their best when the pressure cranked up.

Davis Love, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods all had clear sight of the claret jug yet, to a greater or lesser extent, all cracked.

All three will leave Kent frustrated and, in Singh's case, fuming. "I had my chances and I blew it," moaned the Fijian.

None of the three will bear permanent scars from their close miss. So why should Bjorn, who - it could be argued - simply made his errors later in the round, and on fewer holes?

The Dane's face gave us the answer. None of the other three looked as bereft, as shell-shocked, for none of the other three blew their chance so suddenly and so spectacularly.

In 10 years time, people won't be talking about Singh's bogies on the eighth, 10th and 15th, or Tiger's dropped shots on the 15th and 17th.

But whenever Sandwich 2003 is mentioned, the image of Bjorn's ball rolling back down the slope into the bunker - twice - while he stood there, disbelieving, will come to mind.

"I stood on the 15th tee with one hand on that trophy, and I let it go," admitted Bjorn.

"You live with it and you move on. I know now that I'm on my way back to the game I know I can play. I know I have Majors in me.

"But during the next couple of days it is going to be important to have some good people around me."





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Thomas Bjorn
"It was an expensive mistake"



VOTE RESULTS
Who suffered the worst Open blunder?
2003: Thomas Bjorn
 17.87% 
1999: Jean Van de Velde
 82.13% 
19225 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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SEE ALSO
Bjorn ready to come again
20 Jul 03  |  The Open 2003


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