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Bjorn buoyed by solid start in Denmark

Updated: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 20:31 | Comments

Thomas Bjorn of Denmark hits his tee-shot on the second hole
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark hits his tee-shot on the second hole

Denmark's Thomas Bjorn overcame testing conditions and an encounter with overhead power lines to make the perfect start to his bid to seal a Ryder Cup place on home soil.

Bjorn has not played in the biennial contest since 2002 but has occupied an automatic qualifying spot since winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in December last year.

The 43-year-old dropped out of the European points list recently and is now relying on the world points list, but looks to have done enough to make the European team which will defend the trophy at Gleneagles in September.

Victory in the inaugural Made In Denmark event would make absolutely certain and Bjorn was determined to impress a sell-out crowd, with more than 70,000 spectators expected at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, where Bjorn won his first event as a professional in 1995.

And the world number 24 duly delivered, carding a flawless opening 66 to share the lead with Chile's Felipe Aguilar and Welshman Bradley Dredge on five under par. Fellow Dane Thorbjorn Olesen was three behind after a 69.

The best of the Irish is Peter Lawrie on one under par, followed by Michael Hoey and Damien McGrane on two over par. Gareth Maybin lies four over par, with Simon Thornton and David Higgins on five over. Kevin Phelan is 11 over.

"It was obviously tricky today with the wind, especially when it got up on the back nine, but I drove the ball really well and that gives you opportunities on this golf course," Bjorn told Sky Sports 4.

"I'm happy with the start. It was pretty solid all the way round. There are a couple of holes out there where you have to be careful and happy to walk off with pars, but I put in a nice effort today."

Starting from the 10th, Bjorn opened with four straight pars before birdies at the 14th and 15th took him to the turn in 34, and, although winds gusting to more than 25mph were making scoring conditions difficult, Bjorn was having few problems.

He chipped in from just off the third green for birdie and holed from eight feet for another on the next before coming up against an unusual local hazard, his approach to the par-four fifth hitting overhead power cables and coming up well short of the green.

Bjorn was required to drop another ball and retake the shot, this time finding the putting surface and safely two-putting for par.

Aguilar carded his fourth birdie in a row on the eighth to briefly take the lead, but Bjorn - watching in the group behind - responded with a superb approach to two feet when the green cleared.

"I think coming off some big weeks like the Open and the US PGA, where you feel the pressure, helps," Bjorn said. "I don't think coming into this you feel added pressure after so much big golf of late.

"It feels quite comfortable out there - a lot of great support, which is nice to come home to. They were behind me today, which felt good."

Aguilar, who won his second European Tour title earlier this season thanks to a closing round of 62 in Singapore, also felt good after a lengthy break from the game.

"I think this is because I pursued happiness the last four weeks," Aguilar said after a round containing seven birdies and two bogeys. "I was riding my bike quite a bit, with a little bit of practice at the end.

"I probably did about 1,000km on the bike. It was very intense. It takes my mind off golf. My wife trains for triathlons and I ride with her. I don't like the gym and so this is my way of keeping in shape."

Dredge has won twice on the European Tour - he shot a round of 60 on his way to victory in Madeira in 2003 - and won the World Cup with Stephen Dodd in 2005, but has struggled for form and fitness in recent seasons.

The 41-year-old carded five birdies in his last seven holes and said: "I'm pretty pleased with that. If someone offered me 66 before I went out I would certainly have bitten their hand off.

"It's nice when you start getting your irons shots in closer and rattling some putts in. It's not easy around here. Even downwind it's not easy to get it in close. Some holes into the wind are almost easier."

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