Drama and excitement at Gleneagles

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Interview - Danish golfer Thomas Bjorn

If sport is measured in drama and excitement then this Johnnie Walker Championship scores very well.

Many dismiss Gleneagles week when comparing it to the other Tour events held in Scotland - the Scottish Open, Dunhill Links Championship and of course The Open when it's staged here. But shows this event is captivating in its own right.

The Dane's win, coming at the expense of George Coetzee, Bernd Wiesberger, Pablo Larrazabal and Mark Foster, was the result of golf's very own Groundhog Day. Four times they teed off at the sudden-death 18th hole - four times players were driven back down the fairway to play it again.

But at the fifth time of asking, and with only South African Coetzee standing in his way, Bjorn held his nerve to win the £235,000 first prize.

"I'm delighted. The way I played the last three play-off holes, I couldn't be more proud. When I'm under the cosh I feel pretty calm and good."

Bjorn recently turned 40 and this win sees him climb to just outside the world's top 50. He joked: "If life begins at 40 then I've made a pretty good start!"

For all the excitement a play-off generates, sympathy is also not in short supply for the losers, especially Mark Foster.

Holding a one-shot lead going up the last he hit a loose drive that led to a bogie and sudden-death golf. The pain was evident on the face of the Englishman who hasn't won a Tour event since 2005.

But for a quadruple bogie at the eighth on the opening day, Stephen Gallacher would've won by three shots. Instead he finished at 10 under - just one outside a play-off spot.

"You can't tell can you? I could've bogied other holes. It's over 72, not one hole," insisted the Scot.

Despite just missing out, the 37-year-old Bathgate player was very happy with his week. "I played well and putted well," he added. "It's just good to be back in contention. I hope I can keep it going."

James Byrne
Byrne impressed with a final round 71 to finish three under par

One player who is just getting started is James Byrne. The amateur from Banchory capped an excellent debut in a pro event by carding a 71 to finish at three under par.

"I'm really happy," said the 22-year-old. "The goal was simply to make the cut."

Byrne, who earlier this month was selected for the GB&I Walker Cup team, will now go and work on his game. "They (the pros) are so steady and hardly miss the fairways," he said. "I thought I played steady golf and I'm around 10 shots off the lead."

If Byrne represents the future then fans turning up early to the Centenary Course may have thought they were witnessing the past.

Forty-eight-year-old Colin Montgomerie cut a lonely figure teeing off on his own at 7.20am. First out and without a partner because of injury Monty went round in 74 to finish his 'home' event on six over par.

An unhappy Montgomerie, who is chairman of this event, wasn't seen again after trudging off the 18th.

So the week that saw play delayed by fog and disrupted by wasps has produced a worthy winner in Thomas Bjorn.

He is seen as a strong contender to captain the European Ryder Cup team when the event is staged over the PGA Centenary Course here in 2014.

His experience of the 18th could prove very valuable!

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