Bjorn earns British Open exemption 10 years after late collapse

Thomas Bjorn watched little known American Ben Curtis lift the trophy at the British Open in 2003.

Story highlights

  • Thomas Bjorn was one of five European Tour players to earn an exemption into the Open
  • Bjorn held a late lead at the 2003 tournament in England before faltering at the 16th hole
  • Jonas Blixt, who won the Greenbrier Classic, earned his spot through the world rankings

When it comes to golf's sentimental favorites, Thomas Bjorn would have to be near the top of the list.

The Dane famously blew a late lead at the British Open in 2003 and Ben Curtis took advantage to claim his lone major.

It wasn't a collapse to match that of Jean Van de Velde in 1999 -- the Frenchman crumbled on the final hole and eventually lost in a playoff -- but the Claret Jug was in sight for Bjorn since he led by two shots with three holes to play.

Bjorn's double-bogey five on the 16th at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England effectively ended his hopes of capturing a maiden major and allowed the little known Curtis to triumph. Bjorn finished tied for second.

He will get another opportunity to win the British Open and his first major after being given an exemption Monday for this year's tournament at Muirfield in Scotland that begins next week.

Read: McIlroy targets British Open

Bjorn was one of five European Tour players to earn the exemption based on their Race to Dubai ranking.

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    Since 2003 Bjorn has only finished in the top 40 at the British Open once, in 2011. He was fourth when the Open was once again held at Royal St. George's.

    And his only top-20 finish in any other major in the last 10 years came at the 2005 PGA Championship when he tied for second.

    But in his last five European Tour events, Bjorn registered three top-five finishes and sits 13th in the Race to Dubai.

    Among the other four European Tour players to be granted exemptions was South Africa's Richard Sterne, who finished second at the French Open after struggling on the back nine Sunday.

    Five spots went to PGA Tour counterparts based on their FedExCup ranking, with Billy Horschel highest in the standings at No. 5.

    Horschel tied for fourth at last month's U.S. Open and won the Zurich Open in New Orleans in April.

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    Sweden's Jonas Blixt, meanwhile, led a list of eight players who earned their entry through the world rankings. Blixt won Sunday's rain affected Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia to see his ranking rise from 103rd to 51st.