Bjørn savours first over-50s triumph at Irish Legends

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Thomas Bjørn - Getty Images

Thomas Bjørn claimed his maiden Legends Tour title with a birdie on the second play-off hole after finishing tied with Welshman Phillip Price at the Irish Legends presented by the McGinley Foundation.

The Dane posted a closing six-under par round of 65 to join Price on 15 under par, and the duo both made par on the first trip back down the par five 18th hole at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort. On the second play-off hole, Price saw his birdie putt lip-out leaving Bjørn with a five-foot putt for the win, which he duly converted.

“It was nice,” said Bjørn. “It never gets old, that feeling that you lose it for a few years when you go through the motions on the European Tour and you don’t really get in contention and once you get in there, all those old feelings come up in you. As a sportsman, there’s no greater feeling than Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t really matter where it is, I really got into it today. I recognised myself and I haven’t seen that person for quite a while, which is quite nice. It’s pretty special winning any golf tournament.”

The sun shone on County Donegal on the final day and it was 15-time European Tour winner Bjørn who seized the initiative. Heading into the final round four shots off Price’s lead, the 50-year-old birdied the first and made the turn on two under par, before four further gains on the back nine ensured the fight for the Irish Legends title would be only a two-horse race.

The victory adds another memorable moment to an already illustrious career for the 2018 Ryder Cup Captain and he now becomes only the 13th man to win on the European Challenge Tour, European Tour and the Legends Tour.

“I was quite comfortable yesterday,” he added. “I was so far behind and I was quite happy when I saw that Streeter got in the final group and it just left me and Paul Lawrie together. I felt like I was in a group today where if we got going, we had a chance of edging each other on knowing we both had the capability of doing good stuff on Sunday. Paul didn’t have his best today but I still felt comfortable and it was quite nice not being in the last group. I think if you’re in the last group and you’re too far behind it becomes difficult so I felt like we could just go out and play golf. I got off to a decent start and from there it just snowballed into knowing there was only me and Phillip that could win it and it had to end in a play-off.

“I’ve been to Ballyliffin and played the Irish Open but coming up here and knowing Paul McGinley for so many years, he always talks about how great the places up here are. You don’t always get to go to the places you want to but I’m really, really glad I came. It’s a wonderful part of Ireland and a wonderful part of the world.”

Bjørn and Price finished six strokes clear of their nearest competitors, with English duo Peter Baker and Peter Wilson sharing third place with Argentina’s Mauricio Molina, who set a new course record on the Old Tom Morris Links with a sublime nine-under par round of 62.

South Africa’s James Kingston, Scotland’s Euan McIntosh and English pair Paul Streeter and Gary Wolstenholme finished in a tie for sixth on eight under par, with Denmark’s Steen Tinning and 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie finishing tied tenth on seven under par.

Host Paul McGinley signed off with a four-under 67 to take a tie for 22nd at three-under par with Brendan McGovern at four-over and Philip Walton at plus-five. Irish amateur Clem McCloskey won the Alliance Pro-Am competition after converting his overnight lead, finishing on 100 Stableford points after 54 holes.

The next event on the Legends Tour International Schedule is the Legends Open de France hosted by Jean van de Velde, which takes place at Golf de Saint-Cloud, Paris, from September 2-4, 2021.

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