Sergio Garcia became the fourth youngest champion in the history of the European Tour when he captured the Murphy’s Irish Open title by three strokes from Argentinian Angel Cabrera at Druids Glen.
The young Spaniard fired a wonderful seven under par 64 to claim his first professional win in his sixth tournament since he joined the paid ranks at the end of April.
Garcia finished with a 16 under par total of 268 while Cabrera did little wrong, shooting a 69 for 271. However on the day it was Garcia who fulfilled all the potential and predictions about a glittering future.
Tiger Woods required five tournaments to record his maiden victory. Garcia took one more, but there is little doubt that European golf has unearthed another rare gem - a polished diamond for one so young.
Garcia started the day two shots behind Cabrera but, assisted by some outrageous putting on the smooth Druids Glen greens, he had nosed in front by the ninth and never looked like relinquishing that lead.
He rolled in two monster efforts for birdies at the 12th and 13th and the title was effectively in Garcia’s eager grasp.
Dale Hayes remains the youngest winner at the age of 18 years and 290 days. Seve Ballesteros and Paul Way are just ahead of the young maestro, who is a new champion at the tender age of 19 years and 176 days.
A dynamic amateur, Garcia also promised to follow in the footsteps of Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Within two months he has done that. The prospect of victory, far from intimidating him, positively filled him with an energy which the rest of the field could not match.
He said: “I was waiting for this moment. I said earlier in the year that with a good week I was able to win one tournament. Now my week has arrived. Here we are.”
Garcia won £166,657 – the biggest prize of his fledgling career – to secure a place in the Open Championship at Carnoustie as well as a two-year exemption on the European Tour.
In the space of a fortnight, the Tour has discovered two new and exciting talents in David Park of Wales and the Spanish sensation known all over the golfing world as ‘El Nino’.
Asked if he would hope to enjoy a career parallel to that of Ballesteros he laughed: “He’s been doing great things all his life. I also won at 19 but I have to do a lot of things to be like him. I am certainly going to try.”
Now the Ryder Cup comes into sharp focus for Garcia and he said: “On points? I still have to make more – I probably need to win one more. That is not a question for me. It is a question for Mark James. If he thinks I am good enough I will certainly go.
“If I can help the team I would love to play there but, you know, it is a long time until September, so we’ll see.”
Cabrera finished second for the second time this year while Jarrod Moseley of Australia proved his win in the Heineken Classic was no flash in the pan by shooting a 69 to take outright third place.
Lee Westwood showed a welcome return to form with a closing 68 marred by a double bogey at the 17th to finish tied for seventh with Colin Montgomerie (71) on 277.
However the last word was reserved for the Spanish. Miguel Angel Martin, a close friend of the new champion, equalled the course record with a nine under par 62.