Joakim Haeggman, the first Swedish golfer to play in The Ryder Cup, captured his third European tour title, and his first for seven years, in the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club. Haeggman sank a 15 foot birdie putt on the last green to beat Japan's Nobuhito Sato by a stroke with a closing 65 and 16 under par total of 272.
Sato and Frenchman, Raphaël Jacquelin, had to eagle the par five last to tie. However Jacquelin, who went for the green with a driver off the fairway, landed in a greenside bunker and his chance evaporated.
Sato, a graduate from The European Tour Qualifying School last November, decided he could not reach the surface in two and laid up before pitching to six feet and holing the birdie putt which gave him outright second place on 273.
Jacquelin joined England’s Brian Davis and Spaniard José Manuel Lara in a share of third place on 274 with South Africa’s Martin Maritz sixth.
It was an emotional moment for Haeggman, a member of Sam Torrance's backroom team for The 2002 Ryder Cup victory over the United States at The De Vere Belfry in 2002. Injury has played a large part in the Swede’s colourful career and he was playing on a Medical
Extension this season after breaking his ankle last year.
In 1994 he damaged his shoulder playing ice hockey, but suffered far more long-term damage when missed seven months of the 2003 season after shattering his right ankle in two places, again caused by his life-long love of ice hockey.
“I tripped over and sat on my ankle” explained Haeggman, who was tied 113rd after a first round 75. “I am not so fast these days and the bone didn’t hold. I spent a long time trying to walk again but it’s fine now. However I have definitely retired. The nearest I get to an ice rink is 400 yards away when I drive past!”
He added: “The hard practice has paid off and I would love to get back into The Ryder Cup Team again. I enjoyed walking the fairways with Sam (Torrance) last time, but I couldn’t see why I wasn’t there playing. This is just one step on the road and I feel I can cope with pressure and play at the highest level again.”
Victory lifted Haeggman to sixth in the Volvo Order of Merit with €288,839 while Davis moved up to second behind leader Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland. Ernie Els of South Africa is third while Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez is fourth after being unable to collect any money from the Qatar Masters.
The Spaniard was disqualified before teeing off in the fourth round for a rules infraction at the 12th hole the previous day.
Sato, 34 on the Friday of the tournament, was thrilled to birdie the last for a closing 68 and outright second place. He moves up to 41st on the Volvo Order of Merit and has a strong chance of retaining his card for 2005.
“I am so happy” he said. “I never expected to play so well and to make only two bogeys all week was good. I am pleased with the birdie at the last because I have done so much to keep my card for next year.”
Jacquelin, who lost a play-off for the dunhill championship in South Africa, came close again but his 69 left him two strokes off the pace. He said: “Joakim played great to shoot 65 to win. I am getting close to that win.”
A final round of 67 left Davis short of victory by two strokes, but strengthened his bid to get into the top 50 in the world, so ensuring a place in the Players Championship in the United States and also the Masters Tournament.
He said: “I came out to do a job and I think I’ve done it. It is a pity I couldn’t get into ap lay-off but it’s been a brilliant start to the year.”