Stephen Leaney produced a ruthless front-running performance to capture his third European Tour title when he won the TNT Dutch Open for the second time in three years with a 19 under par total of 269 at Noordwijkse Golf Club. The 30 year old Australian with the calm demeanor and the ubiquitous wrap-around sunglasses shot a final round of 68 to finish four ahead of Bernhard Langer.
Leaney had won the Moroccan Open by eight shots in 1998 before leading from the front later that season to hold off the challenge of Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Nick Price to take the TNT Dutch Open for the first time by one shot. This time, victory was achieved in an even more emphatic manner as he converted a three stroke overnight lead into a four stroke win.
The man from Busselton, Western Australia, played with great composure and assurance all week, making just a solitary bogey over the 72 holes, as he came close to emulating the late Payne Stewart’s record low score for the magnificent Noordwickse links of 21 under par in 1991.
Langer, who has shown a welcome return to form of late, shot a last round 68 to finish runner-up on 273, eight years after he had won over the same course. Defending champion Lee Westwood closed with a 69 for a share of third place with Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Sweden’s Mathias Grönberg on 274.
Leaney, who kept his errors to a minimum and did not even land in a bunker in four days, said: “My goals was to go out and not make a bogey and that was probably the key all week. There are guys who have made more birdies but I made only one bogey.
“I’ve lost only once in nine tournaments when I’ve led on the last day. To have a week with just one bogey proves I was really on my game mentally. I had total belief in my swing and my course management was very good.”
Leaney, who had two ribs cut out of his right shoulder in December 1993 after doctors diagnosed a blood clot and was out of action for 18 months, shared the first round lead with Sweden’s skate-boarding fan, Richard S Johnston on 66, six under par.
Westwood lay just a shot off the pace with a 67 but failed to maintain his forward momentum in the second round, when another Australian Stephen Allan, the 1998 German Open champion, fired a 67 for a total of 135 and a one stroke lead.
However Leaney took command in the third round with a 65, equalling the best of the day, for a 15 under par aggregate of 201. Allan carded a 69 to be three behind with Westwood, Grönberg and Langer a further stroke adrift on 205.
Langer, whose challenge ended with a bogey on the eighth, said: “I had a great start but could not keep it going. My bogey on the eighth really hurt, but in any case Stephen always seemed to be three or four in front and it was a pretty comfortable margin.”
Cabrera, still awaiting that elusive first victory, holed a 15 footer on the final green for a par while Grönberg failed to get up and down from the side of the 18th and he shed a stroke to fall back into a tie for third.
The Swede, who went out in 33 but failed to dent Leaney’s lead, also bogeyed the 10th to miss out on the opportunity to challenge the leader. He admitted: “I made too many mistakes. I had 25 birdies, which should be enough to win the tournament, but I didn’t win. I felt my golf deserved better.”Final ResultsDay 4 Video Highlights