Denmark is the new Sweden. Soren Kjeldsen's victory at Gleneagles last Sunday was the fifth time a Danish golfer has brought home the bacon in a little over a year. Thomas Bjorn, however, remains the Great Dane and a 64 in the second round of the French Open here showed he has a mighty paw with which to stamp his authority.
Bjorn, the 32-year-old Ryder Cup player, hosted a barbecue earlier in the week for the other Danish players who had gathered to celebrate Kjeldsen's win. As in the early days of the Swedes winning on the European Tour, the group is small enough for them to have grown up playing together and good enough to drive each other on to victories.
The unrelated Hansens, Anders and Soren, as well as Bjorn and Steen Tinning all won last year. Anders Hansen scored a 66 yesterday to share second place two behind Bjorn's 10 under par and described how Bjorn was always available to answer any question from his countrymen.
"I help all I can when they ask questions but don't take anything away from what they have all done," Bjorn said. "It is all down to their hard work. Soren Kjeldsen got left out last year and he went out this year to work harder than anyone else.
"And this week you can see with Soren and Anders Hansen that they are very determined. There is a different look in their eyes." Much the same could be said of Bjorn. He is finally free of the neck and back injuries that plagued him for a while and the twins born earlier this year are now doing fine.
"I seem to play my best when I get into a routine of playing a lot of tournaments on courses I enjoy and I'm playing nine of the next 10 weeks," he said. His weekend scores of 65 and 63 before losing in a play-off to Padraig Harrington at the Deutsche Bank was not the breakthrough he hoped.
"One week or one round, even a special round like I had today, does not mean you are back," Bjorn said. "When you perform consistently for a month, that's when you see the right signs." Starting at the 10th Bjorn played the back nine in 31. He dropped only one shot at the 7th and made up for it by birdieing the 8th and 9th. But for the addition of some length, and there is room to do so, Bjorn thinks the Golf National course should be a natural venue for the Ryder Cup.
There are plenty of spectator viewing banks, it is close to one of Europe's great capitals, while "you don't get anything better in European golf than the final four holes here". Nick Faldo, in his pomp, once came a cropper over them.
But with Ireland, Wales and Scotland having sewn up the Ryder Cup for the next decade, the earliest available match would be in 2018. Justin Rose might be one of the few to still be around then. Rose was making nice progress to be two behind Bjorn when he finished one over for the last four with a bogey at the 15th.
A poor drive, not feeling comfortable over his club selection, finished in lush grass by the edge of the lake. He bravely crossed the water and found the green but then took three-putts. A 69 to be seven under and three back left Rose perfectly satisfied with his position with two round to play.
While Eric Chaudouet, the French amateur, returned to the shadows, Philip Golding eagled the 9th, to join the group in second at eight under, alongside David Howell, whose 65 included eight birdies in 10 holes.
The 28-year-old from Swindon broke his arm early last year after tripping while out jogging and feels he is only just getting back to his previous form. "It made me change a few things, including the way I practice and going back to my old coach but hopefully it will be good in the long run," he said.
FRENCH OPEN (Versailles) Leading early second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 134 T Bjorn (Den) 70 64. 136 A Hansen (Den) 70 66; P Golding 66 70; D Howell 71 65; J M Lara (Sp) 67 69; N Colsaerts (Bel) 66 70. 137 S Gallacher 68 69; J Rose 68 69. 138 M A Martin (Sp) 70 68; J M Olazabal (Sp) 70 68; G McDowell 70 68; B Lane 70 68; C Schwartzel (SA) 70 68; R Jacquelin (Fr) 70 68; P Fulke (Swe) 70 68. 139 S Dyson 70 69; C Rodiles (Sp) 70 69; R Bland 72 67; D Fichardt (SA) 71 68; A Oldcorn 69 70; B Dredge 67 72; P O'Malley (Aus) 70 69; S Dodd 72 67. 140 S Luna (Sp) 70 70; D Carter 71 69; B Davis 68 72; S Wakefield 70 70; J Bickerton 69 71; S Leaney (Aus) 70 70. 141 M AJimenez (Sp) 67 74; A Forsyth 68 73; D Park 72 69; R Russell 71 70; G Evans 72 69; J Moseley (Aus) 69 72; H Stenson (Swe) 71 70; M Farry (Fr) 68 73; P Nyman (Swe) 72 69; G Birch 67 74; *J-B Gonnet (Fr) 70 71; P Fowler (Aus) 72 69. 142 S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 71, S Struver (Ger) 70 72, G Turner (NZ) 73 69, M Gronberg (Swe) 72 70, M Blackey 71 71, R Rafferty 70 72, O Edmond (Fr) 70 72, J Van Hauwe (Fr) 74 68, I Garbutt 71 71, G Murphy 68 74, F Widmark (Swe) 73 69, R Derksen (Fr) 68 74, P Lawrie 69 73, R Sterne (SA) 71 71. * denotes amateur