Crans Montana, Switzerland – Thomas Bjorn needed only 72 holes to capture the European Masters this week.
After emerging from a five-man, five-hole playoff last week to win at Gleneagles, Bjorn carded an impressive nine-under 62 on Sunday at Crans-sur- Sierre to overtake several of the world's top players and win for the second straight week.
Bjorn's 10-foot eagle putt on the par-five 15th was the final straw that propelled the Dane to a 20-under 264 finish, marking the first time he's won three times in a single year. It's his 13th overall on the European Tour, only the 27th player in tour history to do so.
The first back-to-back winner on the European Tour since reigning Masters champ Charl Schwartzel won the Africa Open and Joburg Open in January, 2010, Bjorn posted nine birdies and two bogeys to go with his clutch eagle to tie the best round of his career.
His win this week was all the more impressive when considering that three of the world's top six players finished in the top-six of the leaderboard. While No. 2 Lee Westwood and No. 6 Rory McIlroy entered the day in the final grouping and within two shots of overnight leader Jamie Donaldson, it was No. 5 Martin Kaymer who appeared to be in line for the victory heading down the stretch.
Kaymer, who is set to defend his title next week at the KLM Open, led with only two holes left on his card, but a couple birdie misses from two and five feet on the 14th and 15th, respectively, cost him dearly.
Ultimately, though, the shots mattered little for Kaymer, as Bjorn's birdies on the 17th and 18th provided a four-stroke margin in the end. The German, who still shot a six-under 65, settled for second at 16-under 268.
"The way I finished was special, and it's been an amazing two weeks," Bjorn said. "I started hitting my wedges so well and kept it going."
Donaldson was atop the leaderboard alongside Bjorn and Kaymer after three birdies in four holes from the 11th, but was left behind following Bjorn's performance at No. 15. He finished with a 70 for the day and tied for third at 15-under overall.
"There are so many positives to take out of it," said Donaldson, who has played in 238 European Tour events without a win. "I stayed in the hunt not playing well and you can take a lot from that. I can't possibly beat myself up over it."
McIlroy got off to a good start with two straight birdies to share the lead early, but played the next 11 holes at one-over. He was never in contention from that point and shared third with Donaldson after shooting a 68 on Sunday.
However, it was the best finish for McIlroy since his awesome U.S. Open performance, and he tweeted afterward that he is fully recovered from the wrist injury that plagued him at the PGA Championship.
"A very positive week all things considered," he tweeted. "Great to be in contention and even better that my arm feels 100 percent. Well done to Thomas again!!!"
Westwood birdied his opening hole, but bogeys at Nos. 3 and 5 sent him tumbling. He recovered with back-to-back birdies from the sixth, but it was too late at that point. An even-par back nine helped Westwood shoot 70 for the round and 14-under in total, good for sixth place.
Jaco Van Zyl (64) shared third with McIlroy and Donaldson at 15-under, while Fredrik Andersson Hed (64) and David Lynn (65) shared sixth with Westwood at minus-14.
Kaymer was the early headline on Sunday, making up a four-shot deficit in short time, but Bjorn lurked throughout the day, eventually making up the same three-shot deficit he faced last week on Sunday at the Johnnie Walker Championship.
The 2010 PGA Champion Kaymer had two eagles in his first five holes, beginning a flawless round in spectacular fashion. His two on the par-four fifth tied the leaders and back-to-back birdies from the seventh put him ahead for the time being.
Bjorn, though, was at even-par for the round after a bogey at No. 4, but he responded with four straight birdies to get to 15-under, and his 10-footer for birdie at the 10th tied him with Kaymer, who parred each of his last 10 holes.
Bjorn stumbled to his final bogey at the 12th to allow Kaymer to regain sole possession of the lead; however, he birdied the 14th from 10 feet after narrowly missing a water hazard and blasted a fairway wood to the same distance on the 15th, resulting in the eagle that gave him a two-shot cushion.
With only a handful of players still on the course, Bjorn made certain he could not be caught by posting birdies on his final two holes. It gave the Dane his lowest score in relation to par this year by a gaudy six strokes.
"At the end you think nothing can go wrong," Bjorn said. "Golf seems easy sometimes, and you have to remember that when you are not playing well."
After winning only once from 2007-10, Bjorn has tripled that total in 2011 alone and will move just outside the top 25 in the world when the rankings come out next week. He entered the tournament ranked 59th.
NOTES: Last year's winner Miguel Angel Jimenez shot a five-under 66 on Sunday and tied for ninth at 13-under 271...Bjorn has posted double-digit under-par scores three times this year and has won each time. He also won the Qatar Masters early this year...Bjorn had one other round of 62 this year at the Hassan II Golf Trophy, where he finished 15th...Donaldson posted his first top-five finish of the year...The most European Tour wins in a single year is six by Seve Ballesteros in 1986. Four players have won five, most recently Westwood in 2000...The last player to win three straight events was Ballesteros in 1986, and the last to win three straight appearances was Tiger Woods in 2006...World No. 1 Luke Donald is the only other golfer with three wins in 2011.