By Tony Jimenez
(Reuters) - Far from counting down the days towards the autumn of his career, Danish veteran Thomas Bjorn is still keen to show he can mix it with the young guns in golf's elite tournaments.
After landing his 14th tour triumph at the European Masters in Switzerland on Sunday, the 42-year-old climbed 22 spots to 44th in the world rankings.
A place in the top 50 is what every professional golfer craves because it buys a ticket to all four majors and every World Golf Championship event bar next month's HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
"From a confidence point of view I feel like if I get in the top 50 I go into big championships knowing I can compete," Bjorn told reporters after beating Briton Craig Lee in a playoff at Crans-sur-Sierre.
"My world ranking over time has shown I can compete with the best. I feel like I have a lot of golf left in me...and now I have to explain to my wife that I want to play more," he added after sinking a 12-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole.
"It is nice to be back in the top 50. It gives you the opportunity to play the rest of the year and get in the HSBC Champions (as a tournament winner). Every time you miss out on the big championships it knocks your confidence."
Bjorn said Sunday's victory made up for his near-miss at the BMW International Open in June when a double-bogey at the 14th meant he finished one stroke behind winner Ernie Els.
"It hurt losing to Ernie in Munich because I played really well," said the former Ryder Cup player. "I really wanted to get over the line here.
"I'm 42 and you start thinking, when is it going to be the last one? It will come to an end one day."
Bjorn, who also won the European Masters in 2011, said his desire to pick up trophies was as strong as ever.
"The guys who always win are the ones who are not scared of losing," he said. "If you play it safe you win nothing.
"I love the atmosphere of winning. People say I'm not the happiest guy on the golf course but that is the way I have to be.
"If I am any other way then I am not focused. I have to focus from the first tee to the 18th."
Lee, 36, who produced a stunning 11-birdie 61 in Saturday's third round, was unable to capture his first tour victory but was not too downhearted at his playoff defeat.
"I would certainly have taken second place before the week started," said the unheralded Scot, "especially after the first round when I was level par and bordering on the cut line.
"Over the last three years my game has got gradually better and better. The team behind me are all working hard to get the fine points tuned in so I think we are on the right lines."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)