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Thomas Bjorn and Tiger Woods have been good friends since Bjorn defeated Woods in Dubai in 2001. (Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn and Tiger Woods have been good friends since Bjorn defeated Woods in Dubai in 2001. (Getty Images)

Bjorn eager to get early look at Woods at Carnoustie

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Tiger Woods will play a practice round with his buddy Thomas Bjorn Monday morning at Carnoustie. Bjorn thinks the Open could be wide open unless, he says, Woods has taken time out from fatherhood to ramp up like he usually does.

LUSS, Scotland (PA) -- Thomas Bjorn has an early-morning date with Tiger Woods at Carnoustie on Monday. And once he's kept it, he will have either good or bad news for the rest of the players in the Open Championship field.

Woods has been a father for nearly four weeks now, and Bjorn is as keen as anyone to see if it has had any impact on the world No. 1's sharpness ahead of his bid to win the Open for a third successive year.

"I have a feeling that this Open could be very open, but I have an 'unless'," said Bjorn at the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

"That 'unless' is that it could be very open unless Tiger has spent the last couple of weeks how he normally does before a major," he added. "If he has, then he could blow everybody away again."

Since the birth of daughter Sam Alexis the day after he tied for second behind Angel Cabrera at the U.S. Open, Woods has played just once, finishing sixth last Sunday in the AT&T National he was hosting.

"The British Open is my favorite major," Woods wrote in a newsletter on his Web site 51 years on from Australian Peter Thomson becoming the last player to achieve three straight Open Championship victories. "My first was at St. Andrews (in 1995, he was 66th and only the third amateur behind Steve Webster and Gordon Sherry) so it doesn't get much better than that.

"I just love the history, tradition and atmosphere," Woods wrote. "You need patience and imagination to play well, plus the fans are great. I'm really looking forward to next week."

Woods and Bjorn have been close friends ever since they played all four rounds together in the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic. The Dane, himself a father of three now, has happy memories of that week, winning when Woods made a mess of the final hole.

"We've always enjoyed each other's company," said Bjorn. "I asked him at the U.S. Open if we could have a practice round at Carnoustie and then it was all confirmed through his manager Mark Steinberg.

"Being at the start of the week, you can ask him things," Bjorn added. "The closer to the start it is, the more he is tuned in. He's great to watch and you get a sense of where he is at."

Bjorn has always been an admirer. Woods did not bring his A-game to either the Masters in April or Oakmont last month, and Bjorn believes he then set out to beat everybody mentally and nearly pulled it off.

For Bjorn, the Open is his favorite event, too, and one he looks forward to more than any other. He hopes he might be the one to end Europe's eight-year drought in the majors stretching all the way back to Paul Lawrie's amazing 1999 victory at Carnoustie.

Bjorn was a distant runner-up to Woods at St. Andrews in 2000 -- eight shots separated them -- but at Sandwich three years later, he was the one leading by three with four to play.

Then, however, came a bogey on the 15th, a double bogey at the short 16th (three in a bunker) and another dropped shot on the next as he lost by one to surprise winner Ben Curtis.

The Ryder Cup star was "fighting demons in my head" a year later, but has come back to win twice more in Europe and in 2005 was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship after a third-round 63 that equaled the major championship record.

"I have a strange relationship with the Open. I either miss the cut or I play really well and get in the mix," Bjorn said. "I really know I can do it, though. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I've wanted a few better results, but there's been enough good stuff not to worry.

"I've strengthened my grip dramatically and put in a lot of work on it," he added. "I knew I had to do it and it was just a question of putting in the hours, which I have now."

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