JUST 12 days away from his 40th birthday, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn gave himself an early present with a return to winning ways on the European Tour.
Now only 134th in the world, Bjorn won the Qatar Masters by a commanding four strokes from Spaniard Alvaro Quiros in Doha.
The 11th Tour victory of his career should put the former Ryder Cup star, who was as high as 10th on the rankings a decade ago, into the elite 64-man field for the Accenture World Matchplay championship in Arizona later this month.
it is also a huge boost to his hopes of earning a place in this July’s Open at Sandwich, the course where he blew a three-shot lead over the closing stretch in 2003.
Bjorn, twice a Ryder Cup vice-captain and current chairman of the Tour’s tournament committee, said: “It’s a big win and hopefully it can push me onto bigger things.”
His closing 69 meant a 14-under-par total of 274 and not a single bogey on the final 47 holes.
“When I play like that I know I can play against the best.”
Meanwhile Lee Westwood kept his World No 1 spot despite missing the cut, doing so by a stroke when an attempted 30 foot eagle ended on the lip.
He would have lost top spot had No 2 Martin Kaymer finished in the top two but he came only 28th.
Big-hitting Quiros, first and second in the event the past two years, made a back-nine charge and closed the gap to one as Bjorn reeled off 14 pars in a row in the windy conditions.
But after Quiros three-putted the 470-yard 15th Bjorn, armed with a new driver that gave him an extra 10 yards, hit a brilliant approach there to within four feet of the flag and then added further birdies on the driveable 16th and par-five 18th.
Quiros dropped another shot on the 155-yard 17th - television commentator Ewen Murray described his choice of a wedge on the tee as “madness” - but a closing birdie took him ahead of third-placed pair Markus Brier and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
England’s former world number nine David Howell, who came into the week ranked only 352nd, returned to something like his old form with a fifth-place finish, while Sergio Garcia, who had slumped from second to 80th, was joint ninth - his best performance for almost a year.
“We’re fortunate we can keep going at the highest level at this age,” added Bjorn. I’ve worked hard.”