x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Over 40 club proves golf is not just the young man's game

Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke and others over the threshold are not planning ahead their jump to the Seniors Tour Championship just yet.

Thomas Bjorn is the latest to win a European Tour event  over the age of 40.
Thomas Bjorn is the latest to win a European Tour event over the age of 40.

When 2011 is done and dusted, and in the annals of history, one of the things it will be remembered for is proving that competitive life for a sportsman does not have to end at the age of 40 in golf.

There have been glimpses before of players turning back time, most notably with Tom Watson, at the tender age of 59, almost winning the British Open at Turnberry as he missed a putt at the final hole, but you could be forgiven for thinking golf was becoming a young man's game with players such as Rory McIlroy (aged 22) and Keegan Bradley (25) both winning majors this year.

But Darren Clarke disproved this theory by winning the British Open at Royal St George's in July, and at the age of 43, became the first man since Payne Stewart in 1999 to win a major aged over 40.

But he is not the only one to be playing excellent golf in the period normally when a player's career begins to tail off and they begin to consider making the jump to the Seniors Tour Championship.

Prior to this year the name Thomas Bjorn brought up memories of his agonising collapse at the 2003 British Open at Royal St George's.

The Dane had led by two shots with three holes to go, before a disastrous 16th hole wrecked his dreams of clinching a major as he had to take three attempts to get out of a bunker and he ended up in a tie for second behind Ben Curtis, the unheralded American.

Since then there had been little from Bjorn apart from the occasional tournament success, but a victory at the Qatar Masters in February, 12 days before he turned 40, showed signs of things to come for the man from Silkeborg.

Returning to the scene of his disappointment in 2003 at the British Open, Bjorn impressed a lot of people by not only talking about the experience, but by how he played on the course.

He shot a 65 to share the lead after the first round, and while he was not able to stay at the top, he performed superbly in difficult conditions to finish in joint fourth - four shots off Clarke.

Bjorn's revitalised performances did finally get the reward they deserved on Sunday when he held his nerve in an epic five-man play-off, which lasted 90 minutes, to win the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland.

The Dane himself said afterwards: "It gives you a boost that, yeah, I might be 40, but it's not over yet."

While players such as McIlroy and the younger generation may be likely to rule the roost in the coming years, the old guard cannot be discounted just yet.

gcaygill@thenational.ae