Even as runner-up, Tiger Woods a winner: Danish golf star Thomas Bjorn | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Even as runner-up, Tiger Woods a winner: Danish golf star Thomas Bjorn

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn upstaged Tiger Woods in the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic tournament, but it was the beginning of a special bond between the players.

other sports Updated: Feb 05, 2017 17:15 IST
Robin Bose
Thomas Bjorn won the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic when he defeated the then World No.1 Tiger Woods by two strokes.
Thomas Bjorn won the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic when he defeated the then World No.1 Tiger Woods by two strokes.(Getty Images)

Tiger Woods has left but his imprint is all over the Emirates Golf Club. This one’s hard to miss among the photographs on the clubhouse walls. Posing with Thomas Bjorn, who pipped him by two shots at the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic, the expression says it all. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the then world No 1.

Missing cut on Saturday, Bjorn acknowledged it wasn’t easy, more so when up against a formidable opponent. “Every time anybody went up against him (Tiger), you were bound to fall short, that week I didn’t, and it’s something to be proud of.”

Friendship on Fairway

The way the two went at each other got them to bond, and it has stood the test of time. “The respect grew into friendship and that one week means so much to me and something to Tiger as well,” said Danish player, who will lead Europe in the Ryder Cup next year.

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Whatever little time Tiger was here, the two met, and like always, it was “more than just the meeting of two golfers”. The guard was down, so did he remind Tiger of that loss? “Not really,” he laughed. “There was plenty he could have reminded me about; I won’t go down that road. To have gone up against him at his best is a nice thing to have.”

Tiger would love to feature as a player at Paris’ Le Golf National, but with the latest bout of injury this week, the future is uncertain. Inside or outside the ropes (as a possible US Ryder Cup vice-captain), Bjorn is certain Tiger will make an impact. “We all know what he brings to golf; for sure he’ll bring something to the American team.”

The Role Model

The fierce competitor would have cringed after withdrawing with a lower back spasm on Friday, as reduced to being a ceremonial, comfortable golfer is just not acceptable. Bjorn said Tiger needn’t worry on that front. After watching young professionals approach him at the driving range here for autographs, the Dane is sure the legacy is intact.

“Like Jack (Nicklaus), Arnie (Arnold Palmer) and Seve (Ballesteros), Tiger is a great story in the history of the game. He will have to appreciate that he has touched so many lives, not just people but professional golfers, with the way he’s played the game.”