Eduardo Romero of Argentina led from start to finish to end a six year wait for his seventh European Tour victory by capturing the Canon European Masters by ten strokes from Thomas Björn at Crans-sur-Sierre.
It was a devastating performance by Romero, whose last win came high in the Alps in the same event in 1994. He shot rounds of 64, 68, 62 and 67 for a 23 under par total of 261 – the lowest total on the European Tour in 2000 and the biggest margin of victory with the exception of Tiger Woods’ 15-shot success in the US Open.
The man nicknamed ‘El Gato’ – The Cat – looked as if he had got the cream when he announced: “The key this week was my concentration, which has improved since I took up yoga. I concentrated well and played fantastic. I feel like Tiger Woods!”
Romero becomes the oldest winner on the Tour since his compatriot Vicente Fernandez won the English Open at The Belfry in 1992. Fernandez was 46 years and 119 days; Romero 46 years and 52 days.
Second place on 271 carried Björn to the top of the 2001 European Ryder Cup points table, while the 166,660 euro (£102,620) he earned took last week’s BMW International Open champion over the £1 million mark for the season.
Darren Clarke had looked like the more likely candidate to chase Romero home, but a double bogey at the 16th and a bogey at the 17th cost him three strokes and second place. However, with a final round of 70, Clarke took outright third place and climbed ahead of Lee Westwood at the top of the Volvo Order of Merit with 2,105,052 euro (£1,296,182) to his friend’s 2,091,209 euro (£1,287,659).
Niclas Fasth of Sweden fired the best round of the day, a 64, to take fourth on 273, 11 under par, with past winner Mathias Grönberg fifth and Phillip Price and Nick Faldo sharing sixth.
In truth, Romero never looked in danger of being headed after he opened up a three stroke lead at halfway and increased it to eight after 54 holes thanks to that new course record of 62 for the remodelled course at Crans-sur-Sierre.
The amiable Argentinian went out in 32, four under par, to turn the final day into a fight for second place. Six years ago he beat Pierre Fulke by a single shot to lift the title – this time he had no such trepidation as he galloped ten shots clear.
Björn was quick to pay a glowing tribute to Romero, who was raised shoulder-high by fellow Argentine players and caddies after he tapped in for a par at the 72nd hole. He said: “Eduardo played fantastic golf. It’s been really spectacular. The tournament has really been out of everyone’s hands for the last two days. Every time he needed to, he produced something remarkable.”
Faldo collected 48,750 points to make a solid start to his bid to reclaim a place in next year’s Ryder Cup team. He shot three rounds in the sixties and insisted he might have finished closer if his wedge play had been more efficient. He admitted: “That wasn’t bad, but Romero’s score in unbelievable. To shoot that low is pretty phenomenal.”
Sheffield’s John Mellor wasn’t too displeased either, despite a closing 76. He holed his five iron at the 11th hole on the final day to win a Volvo V70 car worth around £21,000.