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A NEW ERA OF THE NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE IS BJØRN

If Thomas Bjørn was looking for confirmation that at the age of 42 he could still compete with the best in the game, then his two-stroke victory in the 2013 Nedbank Golf Challenge gave him 1 250 000 reasons to keep believing. The $1 250 000 cheque he received for becoming the first Danish winner of “Africa’s Major” is nothing compared with the confidence he gained from a clinical four days at the Gary Player Country Club.

With a final round of 65 on Sunday, he claimed his second victory in 2013 on a total of 20 under par. “This is right up there with the biggest victories of my career,” said Bjørn after beating Sergio Garcia and Jamie Donaldson into second place on 18 under par. “The golf I played this week was so good. I’m 42 and to start my 14th season like this is unbelievable. This takes me into 2014 with the belief that I can compete with the best in the world.”

On Bjørn’s spectacular round, Golf icon Gary Player said, “I was thrilled to see Thomas’ victory at the GPCC. A fantastic start to the 2014 season for Thomas, and I must say that I am so happy to see the success of the Nedbank as this year represented a real milestone for the tournament.”

Bjørn went into the final round three strokes behind leader Donaldson. Garcia made the most significant move early on, but Bjørn birdied the ninth and then hit a magnificent five iron for his second into the 10th for an eagle that gave him the lead. The back nine turned into a duel between him and Garcia. Then on the par-five 14th Bjørn enjoyed some luck when his second shot pitched in the waste bunker and then skipped onto the green, from where he made another eagle.

Garcia birdied the 15th to close to within one shot of the Dane. But Garcia bogeyed 16 and Bjørn birdied 15 to see him three clear playing the last, affording him a bogey on 18.

“Golf is funny. Sometimes it takes away from you and other times it gives back to you. Today it was my time. It was a battle early on between Jamie and me, but I kind of had a feeling that either one of Henrik Stenson or Sergio Garcia were going to be there in the end.

I’m proud of the way I handled myself this week. This is one of those tournaments that have been around for so long. I’ve come close to winning it before, and I’ve always wanted to come down here and put in a good performance.”

In a moving prize giving ceremony on the 18th green, Bjørn paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, who passed away during the tournament. “He was an inspiration to human beings. To see what one man can do is an inspiration to all of us. If we all just do a little bit more then this world will be a better place.”

In a golf sense, Bjørn found the little bit more he needed. He’s now become the first Dane to win “Africa’s Major”. Does he think it possible he could become the first Dane to win a Major in 2014? “I like to think so. I want to compete and play with the best. I have no interest in being a guy on tour who just makes a living.”

Article courtesy of Sun International.

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