England’s Malcolm Mackenzie ended a 20 year wait for his first European Tour title when he played the shot of his life to set up a birdie for on the final hole at Le Golf National to win the Novotel Perrier Open de France by the narrowest margin.
Mackenzie had opened up a three stroke lead with four holes to play but that had disappeared after a run of three successive bogeys from the 15th, leaving him tied with Trevor Immelman playing the last. When the young South African only made par Mackenzie knew he needed a birdie to win.
Faced with almost 200 yards to the pin on the island green, the 40 year old hit the best two iron of his life, a shot that never left the pin before coming to rest 15 feet above to hole. From there he safely two putted to finally enter the winners enclosure.
It was his first European Tour title in his 509th event dating back to his debut in 1981. Two years ago Roger Chapman ended a spell of 472 events without a victory when he won in Brazil. That record for the longest spell before a first victory has now been broken.
The cheque for €333,330 was the largest of his career and more than he has won for the last two years combined. Victory also moves him from 146th in the Volvo Order of Merit to seventh.
“It feels wonderful,” said Mackenzie. “When I set off today I just wanted a good start and didn’t get it. But it could have been worse because I up and downed it on the first and second for a bogey. So I wasn’t that disheartened. At the third hit a great bunker shot to make a birdie and after that I played superb.
“But at the 15th it all fell apart. It needs a lot of nerve to play it especially into the wind. I lost it a little there and went in the water. Up and downed it again though for a five.
“On the 16th I left a four footer short off the cup which was nerves more than anything. But under the circumstances I forgave myself. On the 17th I dropped a shot again but had a bad lie on the fairway. Then it all came down to 18.
“I had a conversation with my caddie and said are we going to go for it or not. He said go on have a go. I’m glad he did. I’ve got him to thank for that. We were presuming Trevor made a par and thought if we birdie we will win so had to go for it. It is the best two iron I have hit.
“After the 17th I just thought I was going to mess up the last hole as well. I thought I was losing it altogether but managed to find some reserves and hit the shot of my life. But that is what it all comes down to in the end, having the chance. If you don’t have a go you might never get the chance again. I have waited long enough so had to have a go. This changes my life.
“I went back to the school twice in the last three years but I kept trying and kept going and it is worth it. Just don’t give in.”
Ultimately Immelman proved his nearest challenger after birdieing the 17th but his round of 72 was just one too many.
“It was a good week,” said Immelman. “When you finish second you always say I could of or should of but it is tough. It has been a great week and a week that I have proved to myself that I belong out here and can win tournaments. I am looking forward to the next few weeks.”
Anders Hansen, Ian Woosnam and Kenneth Ferrie shared third place on 12 under par with the defending champion and the player many perceived as the main threat, Jose Maria Olazabal finishing in joint sixth with Andrew Coltart and Eduardo Romero