European Tour

Bjorn blazes through Wentworth

Thomas Bjorn (AFP)
Thomas Bjorn (AFP)

Virginia Water - Denmark's Thomas Bjorn has rolled back the years as he equalled the course record in the opening round of the European PGA Championship here at Wentworth on Thursday and then targeted a Ryder Cup recall.

Bjorn shot eight birdies and an eagle in a ten-under par 62 to take early command before a prolonged rain delay.

When play resumed, Ireland's Shane Lowry handed in a 64, whilst South African's Justin Walters - who was named as the Challenge Tour graduate of the year - was five-under par on 67.

The 43-year old Bjorn played the back nine in 30, seven-under par, and finished with eight birdies and eagle to equal Robert Karlsson's mark set back in 2010.

Karlsson's 62 was against a par of 71, rather than the current 72, and Bjorn's score is the lowest ever opening round in the 60-year history of the tournament - the European Tour's flagship event.

Rory McIlroy got off to a sluggish start and was one over par after four holes - the same mark as Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and defending champion Matteo Manassero who were all in the group in front.

Bjorn last represented Europe in the Ryder Cup as a player in 2002 but has been a vice-captain three times since.

And the veteran is desperate to get back into the thick of the action when the United States visit Gleneagles in Scotland for the 2014 renewal.

Bjorn said: "We all want to play in it. It would be a great achievement for me as it is 12 years since I was last in the team.

"I have watched a lot from the side lines and that can hurt a little bit at times. I wanted to play in another Ryder Cup and I've got to stay focussed and keep playing good golf to there. I am determined to do that.

"I still think I need to do a lot more - there are a lot of guys playing great golf at the moment - there is a long way to go and some very big tournaments on the way."

The Dane finished with a flourish making a four at the par-5 18th for the lowest opening of his European Tour career and his lowest round of the season so far.

Bjorn used to live at Wentworth but has had scant success in this tournament so far. His best finish was fifth in 1998 but his local knowledge finally paid dividends.

Bjorn said: "To step out on this course of all courses and play like I did today was surprising. It was just one of those days where you walk off the course and think I want to keep playing.

"It's not a place where I think it's going to be a great week but I have to stick my head down now and focus on the rest of the week.

"I haven't had the best record here. It has been a long time since I have had any sort of result on this golf course. You shoot great rounds of golf in your career but to shoot 62 on this golf course, you can't ask for much more.

"On the European Tour there is no bigger stage than this. This is our event."

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington also showed glimpses of a return to form by handing in a 69, three-under par.

Spain's Sergio Garcia completed a one-over par 73 before withdrawing from the tournament with a knee injury.

Leading scores from the first round of the European PGA Championship here at Wentworth on Thursday (par 72) - COMPLETED ROUNDS ONLY

62 - Thomas Bjorn (DEN)

64 - Shane Lowry (IRL)

65 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP)

66 - Gary Stal (FRA)

67 - Justin Walters (RSA), Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR), Anthony Wall (ENG)

68 - David Horsey (ENG), Martin Kaymer (GER), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Thomas Aiken (RSA), Jonas Blixt (SWE), Rory McIlroy (NIR)

69 - Padraig Harrington (IRL), Marcel Siem (GER), Gregory Havret (FRA), Simon Dyson (ENG), Pablo Larrazabal (ESP)

70 - Stephen Gallacher (SCO), Branden Grace (RSA), Robert-Jan Derksen (NED), Bernd Weisberger (AUT), Richie Ramsay (SCO), Craig Lee (SCO), Peter Whiteford (SCO), Richard Green (AUS), Andy Sullivan (ENG), Joost Luiten (NED), Ian Poulter (ENG), Justin Rose (ENG)

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