Gregory Havret became the second Frenchman to win on The 2001 European Tour International Schedule when he claimed his maiden title in his rookie season by winning the Atlanet Italian Open at Is Molas in Sardinia.
On a day of high drama in which all the top 115 players in the Volvo Order of Merit who retained their European Tour cards won more than £100,000, Havret held his nerve to shoot a final round of 69, three under par, for a winning total of 268, 20 under par.
It was the first time that all the leading 115 players had passed the £100,000 milestone in a season, reflecting the growing strength of The European Tour.
Havret finished one clear of Bradley Dredge, who carded a final round of 69 with the defending champion Ian Poulter, Diego Borrego, Shaun Webster and Mark Roe sharing third place on 17 under par 271.
For Roe it meant he climbed from 131st in the Volvo Order of Merit to 111th to retain his playing privileges for an 18th season on The European Tour. Christian Cevaer held on to the all important 115th place after holding off the challenges of those behind him by finishing in joint 38th place, taking his season’s earnings to 161,617 euro (£100,487).
But the week belonged to Havret. The 24 year old picked up three birdies on the homeward stretch to parry the thrust from Dredge and follow in the footsteps of Victor Chandler British Masters Champion Thomas Levet to claim the 166,660 euro (£103,622). Victory lifted him from 108th to 56th in the Volvo Merit and earned him a place in next week’s Volvo Masters.
Havret started the final round a shot off the lead but immediately moved to the top of the leaderboard with birdie on the first hole. He three putted the sixth for his only the bogey of the round but it was not until the 11th that he started to pull ahead when he pitched to ten feet.
A third birdie of the day followed on the par three 14th, his eight iron shot finishing ten feet from the hole and then he moved to 20 under par with his final birdie of the day on the par five 16th, chipping to three feet. Two pars to finish concluded his fourth round in the 60’s during the week.
“It was very, very hard,” said Havret. “I have never known this kind of pressure before. It feels so good. I didn’t expect to win in my first season. My goal was to keep my card. I’ve won this week but I didn’t think it was possible. It is very hard being in the lead of a European Tour event on the last round. But I took my opportunities. My heart was racing over the last four holes, it was very exciting. I want to have more experience like this soon. This is why we play golf.”
Dredge came flying out of the blocks with an eagle on the first followed by a birdie on the third but his charge faltered when he drove out of bounds on the fifth on his way to running up a double bogey six. He bounced back with two birdies in the last four holes but was unable to catch Havret as he closed with a 69. It was however still his best finish on The European Tour and lifted him to 71st in the Volvo Order of Merit.
“I started great,” said the Welshman. “But then made a double bogey and that really threw me. After that I started to hit the ball terribly. I was putting well but hit the ball awful. I didn’t know what was happening. But it is the best finish on the Tour and there are a lot of positives to be taken from this. And Gregory has played very well.”
Roe looked as if he was destined to fall out of the top 115 but enjoyed his best week of a frustrating year to continue his run on The European Tour which started in 1984. A closing 66, six under par, secured a joint third finish.
“The most important thing was that there was pressure out there today and I stood up to it and played well,” said Roe. “Today the 66 could easily have been 63 and then I might have been looking at winning. I felt I had my chances out there and really during the whole of the play I wasn’t looking at anything other than getting a total that might win the tournament. You can win from the position I was in.
“I was under pressure but I have come off the course and realised I have done something positive. That is the best performance of the year by a long stretch.”
Poulter made a strong defence of his title with a blistering back nine which included a hole in one on the 14th sandwiched between two birdies. The previous day his playing partner Raymond Russell holed in one on the same hole and Poulter followed him in the final round, his seven iron shot pitching six feet short and rolling in.
“I’ve given it my best shot,” said last season’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year. “A missed a couple of putts coming in but overall it has been a pretty good week. It was frustrating on the front nine but looked on the board and saw I was not that far behind. The hole in one gave me a big boost of adrenaline which almost pulled me through.”
Borrego finished in a share of third place for the second successive week but for Wesbter, who completed the group on 17 under par, it was a case of so near and yet so far. The Englishman needed to finish first or second to avoid a trip to the Qualifying School Finals but came just short. On the 17th his putt from 12 feet ran round the edge of the cup but stayed above ground and then his bunker shot on the last ran past the edge of the hole. His share of third place was still his best finish at the end of his rookie season.