Rolf Muntz, who began the nineties by winning the Amateur Championship at Muirfield, launched another new decade by claiming his first professional victory with a runaway success in the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.
Muntz became the first Dutch golfer to win a European Tour title following two second place finishes and is the sixth first-time winner on the Tour’s International Schedule for the 2000 season.
The 30 year old fired a closing level par 72 for an eight under par total of 280 and a five shot victory over 1991 Masters champion Ian Woosnam, who shot the lowest round of the final day, a superb four under par 68, for a total of 285.
Woosnam, who has finished second four times on three continents in the past six months, paid an immediate handsome tribute to the new champion by saying: “eight under par in these conditions is very good. He is five ahead of me and I am four ahead of the rest. That shows how well he has played.”
The Welshman recorded five birdies and one bogey in his 68 to finish runner-up by four strokes from Eduardo Romero of Argentina and Australian Stephen Leaney, who had been Muntz’s closest challenger going into the last round.
It was a sweet moment for Muntz, who came agonisingly close to breaking his duck in the Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles last year. However he was pipped by Warren Bennett’s birdie at the first hole of a play-off.
Muntz not only becomes the first golfer from Holland to triumph on the European Tour, he is the first Dutchman to win an official tournament in Europe since 1947, when Joop Ruhl won the Dutch Open.
The Dutchman said: “The game felt good and I was in no doubt really after building up such a big lead after three rounds. This is great. It’s something I wanted to achieve and I hope it’s the first of many. For Dutch golf it is the first win by a Dutchman in European Tour history. I think it’s a very, very positive thing for golf in my country.”
After three rounds, Muntz was six shots ahead and he admitted: “The key was just to play my own game. There was only one contestant and that was me. You don’t have to beat anyone else. Just be your own friend. If you start worrying about other people you don’t have control over them so I just tried to play my own game.”
Last year, Open champion Paul Lawrie won with a 20 under par total of 268. Altogether, 39 players were under par at the end of the week. This year was a notable contrast with only two players beating the regulation par of 288 due to a combination of the wind and the superbly manicured but penal rough.
The wind-swept tournament began with Australian Peter Lonard, who learned the game playing in hot windy conditions in New South Wales, feeling right at home in Qatar as he mastered the local shamal to take a one stroke lead into the second round.
The 32 year old, who was sidelined for 18 months in 1993 and 1994 after contracting ‘Ross River Fever’ – a mosquito-carried virus which caused damage to his eyes. As a result Lonard developed conjunctivitis from over-wearing contact lenses.
However the use of wrap-around sunglasses has solved the problem, and Lonard took advantage of an early starting time, before the winds began to howl in earnest, and shot a five under par 67.
That was enough to secure a one shot lead over Muntz and England’s David Lynn, who carded 68s, with Stephen Leaney, Markus Brier and Gary Orr on 70. In all, only a dozen players managed to break par on a day for shot improvisation.
Mathias Grönberg of Sweden and Muntz then moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage. They showed no discomfort in the tough conditions, with the Swede shooting a two under par 70 and Muntz a 73 for two round total of 141, three under par.
They led by one stroke from Irishman Paul McGinley, who carded an impressive 70 early in the day for a total of 142 with Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Russell Claydon a further stroke behind on 143.
On Saturday, Muntz produced a marvellously controlled display in the incessant wind at Doha to shoot a five under par 67 in the third round – the day’s lowest score by two shots – to establish a six stroke lead over Leaney. It seemed all over, barring an unlikely collapse by the Dutchman. That did not materialise and Muntz went on to secure his place in Dutch golfing folklore.