By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Thomas Bjorn has been playing some of the best golf of his life over the past eight months and he made that count on Friday as he charged up the leaderboard with a scintillating finish at the Masters.
The 43-year-old Dane birdied four of the last five holes to shoot a four-under-par 68 in the second round, despite tricky scoring conditions at Augusta National on a firming layout in swirling winds.
Bjorn, who earned the biggest cheque of his career by winning his 15th European Tour title at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa in December, rated his round as one of his best in 11 Masters appearances.
"It was a good one, it's right up there," a smiling Bjorn told reporters after mixing eight birdies with four bogeys to storm into contention with a three-under total of 141.
"It's a tricky golf course. You can try and do the right thing, but if you're not quite on, it becomes extremely difficult out here.
"Today I tried to do the right things and I executed well. I felt comfortable on the golf course and that's always a sign that you've got a good idea of where your golf swing is and how you're hitting the ball."
Bjorn, whose best Masters finish in his previous 10 starts was a tie for 18th in 2002, was especially pleased with the way he responded from a three-putt par at the long 13th where he had reached the green in two.
"I hit two great shots on 13 and walked away with a five," he said. "So I felt like I had to be a little bit more aggressive in my golf and I took on the shots on 14 and 16 and they paid off."
Bjorn launched his birdie blitz by hitting an eight-iron to 18 feet at the 14th, and struck a seven-iron to eight feet at the 16th. In between, he also birdied the par-five 15th after laying up in two and hitting a lob wedge to 10 feet.
Though he bogeyed the 17th after pulling his tee shot into an adjacent fairway, he rebounded with another birdie from close range at the par-four last.
"It was a good day," said Bjorn. "I played well. I played solid all the way through. You always worry about that back nine, you don't really know how it's going to go, but I felt like I was pretty much in control of what I was doing."
Bjorn, who launched his sizzling run of recent form with victory at the European Tour's European Masters in September, felt he had learned his most important Masters lesson last year when he tied for 46th.
"It was probably the first time I really understood the golf course completely," he said. "I learned so much from that week, that even without playing great, I could find the way around the golf course, put myself in positions.
"When I came in this week, I felt like that's what you have to do. And then if you play well, you've got a chance of putting good numbers together.
"But if you don't play very well, you've still got to try to position yourself and do the right things on the golf course. I certainly did that today."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)