England’s Brian Davis withstood a powerful charge from defending champion, Paul Casey, to land the ANZ Championship, accumulating 17 points on the last day for a final haul of 44, one better than his compatriot, after both had shot closing rounds of 65 at the Horizons Golf Resort, Port Stephens, New South Wales.
Davis carded rounds of 70, 69 and 68 in the first three rounds, but he left his best to last, racking up ten birdies in the final round and even the inclusion of three bogeys, which subtracted three points from his score in the modified stableford format, failed to halt his surge towards a second victory on The European Tour International Schedule.
Casey, whose week was highlighted by a superb 63 in the second round, put up a bold defence but ultimately came up one point short of retaining his title. Frenchman Thomas Levet finished tied for third on 39 points alongside Australian amateur Nick Flanagan and Scott Gardiner.
Victory was worth €200,583 to the 29 year old Londoner and moved him into third place on the Volvo Order of Merit behind Number One, Ernie Els of South Africa and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez.
It was his second success, the first coming in the Open de España almost four years ago, and this latest trophy helped him jump into fourth place on the European Ryder Cup Points List with 667,730.
Trailing 54-hole leader, Steve Webster of England, by 12 points at the start of the day, Davis maintained his daily improvement and summed up his victory in just one word: “Amazing!”
Davis attributed his vastly improving putting was responsible for his final day charge and said: “I can’t putt any better than that. I rolled the ball beautifully…and I still had three bogeys. But my main goal was just to go out and make as many birdies as I can and see where I could finish.
“The key, probably, to the win was the bogey I made on the seventh. I had a massive slice off the tee into the jungle, dropped it out, hit a three wood out short of the green, chipped it up and holed from about four feet for bogey. My momentum would have gone if I made a double.”
Davis had aimed at a top-five finish in order to elevate him a few notches on the Official World Golf Ranking in order to gain a place in the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play in California in less than a fortnight’s time. Going into the ANZ Championship, Davis lay in 71st position and within striking distance of the top 64 in the world.
“I had to finish top-five to maybe have a chance,” he said. “That was on my mind the start of Saturday morning. I knew if I’d finished top-five I’d have a chance. Top-three I’d really have a good chance of making it.
“And now with the win… if I don’t jump a few places in the World Ranking there’s something wrong with it!” he said with a chuckle, adding: “Hopefully this is the start of a big year for me.”
Starting the day on 27 points, 12 behind Webster, Davis began the round with a bogey, but shot four consecutive birdies from the second hole. He finished strongly, too,, with birdies on the last three holes to earn 17 points and finish on 44 points – the equivalent of 272 and 16 under par in stroke play.
Casey also closed with a 65 but his round was worth 14 points and that, ultimately, was the difference between the two Englishmen. Unlike Davis, Casey managed to prise seven birdies from the Horizons course and, in fact, just one more would have been enough to successfully defend his title.
Under the modified stableford scoring system used at the ANZ Championship, players are awarded two points for a birdie, five for an eagle, eight for an albatross, none for a par, and lose one for a bogey or three for a double bogey or worse.
The leaders for much of the final day, Webster and Australian Nick O’Hern finished tied for sixth on 37 points. O’Hern had three front-nine birdies and three back-nine bogeys in a round of 72 worth three points.
Webster, who led the field after the first and second rounds, lost two points in a round that included one birdie, a bogey, an eagle on the ninth and a double bogey at the 18th after a bold bid to somehow find the eagle that would add five points to his total. Webster trailed by four going to the last, but his first attempt at a big drive went out-of-bounds and the second went into the water.