After inspiring finish, Ryder Cup legend staves off retirement … for now

thomas bjorn grins at dp world tour event in spain

Thomas Bjorn staved off the end of his professional career in impressive fashion on Saturday.

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Thomas Bjorn turned for home on Friday at the Andalucia Masters and acknowledged the obvious: his full-time pro golf playing career was on its last legs.

For months, Bjorn had pushed away thinking much about the end of his professional exemption on the DP World Tour, which would surely result in the end of his 30-year professional golf career. But now, with three holes left in Friday’s second round, the reality was impossible to avoid. The Andalucia Masters was the final event under his exemption, and Bjorn had just made bogey on the 15th hole, placing himself three shots out of the cutline with three holes to play.

As he stepped to the tee box on the 16th hole, Bjorn reflected on the last three decades of his life as a professional golfer. He’d won 15 times on the European Tour. He’d been a force for European Ryder Cup teams for decades, going 3-0 as a player and 2-0 as a captain and vice-captain. And he’d embodied the ethos of a generation of European golfers. Now, with only three holes to go, he figured there was only one way to handle the likely end of his full-time professional career.

“I had to give it a go and see if I could put a nice round together for that,” he said.

The comeback started in earnest on the 16th, when a nice approach left him for 40 feet for birdie. Bjorn poured in the putt with a healthy bit of pace, pushing him to 1 over for the tournament and two back of the cutline, with two holes to go. He’d followed that up with another bomb make on the 17th, bringing him back to even for the tournament. Suddenly he just needed a birdie on the 18th, his final hole, to sneak inside the cutline. As he walked up the 18th fairway, his playing partner shot him a smile.

“Alex Fitzpatrick kept saying ‘you’re putting like my brother,’” Bjorn said later with a chuckle, referencing Fitzpatrick’s U.S. Open-winning older brother, Matt. “So that must be a good thing!”

On the 18th green, Bjorn summoned one last piece of putting magic, rolling in a third and final long-range birdie to push him through the cutline and into the weekend. He celebrated on the 18th, a whirlwind finish that would let him see his DP World Tour career out with the dignity of a Sunday finish.

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Yes, he was glad to know he’d extended his playing career by at least two more days. But don’t get it twisted, Bjorn says, he knows he’s at the end of his rope.

“I enjoy being out here, I enjoy being with these young guys but everything comes to an end,” he said. “As much as I will still play a few events here and there, I certainly won’t play a full schedule going forward. They’re just simply too good.”

For now, though, Bjorn will get two more days with the big boys. There’s something to be said for that, even if it (occasionally) serves as a reminder of his own age.

“It becomes real for you when you’ve been out here for that long and you’re coming to the end of it,” he said. “I still enjoy being out here, I played with two guys (Dan Bradbury and Fitzpatrick) these last two days who are combined younger than I am.”

“That tells a big story.”

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