Argentina’s Angel Cabrera proved the ultimate driving machine as he raced to a two stroke victory over Ireland’s Paul McGinley in the inaugural BMW Championship at Wentworth Club.
Cabrera, one of the longest drivers of the ball in the professional game, shot a final round 66 for a 15 under par total of 273 to finally win The European Tour’s flagship event after two near misses and claim the €666,660 first prize.
Twice before, the 35 year old Cabrera finished runner-up, first in 2001 and again last year, but this time around it was a case of third time lucky as he captured his third European Tour title.
“It was a very tough day and I knew I had to concentrate and did that,” said Cabrera. “I played very well and this is a huge victory for me. It’s really the best moment of my life winning the biggest event in Europe after The Open Championship.
“I was twice very close, and fortunately, this time when I had my chance I was able to take it.”
McGinley made a bold challenge, making up his two stroke deficit at the start of the day with a burst of four birdies in succession from the third to draw level at the top of the leaderboard and from that point it was a two-horse race.
The Dubliner edged ahead with a birdie at the eighth but Cabrera, who had earlier eagled the fourth hole, pulled him back after the turn with a birdie on the 11th. They remained locked together at the top until McGinley made the first mistake, finding sand with a four iron off the tee on the 16th and dropping his first shot of the day. Moments later Cabrera holed from 20 feet for a birdie and edge two clear.
McGinley’s challenge was effectively over a hole later when he pushed his tee shot on the 17th and found a horrible lie. All he could do was pitch back on the fairway as he ran up a second successive bogey and Cabrera was clear to claim the biggest victory of his career.
It was an emotional round for McGinley whose thoughts throughout the past few days have been for his close friend Darren Clarke and his wife Heather who was admitted to hospital on Wednesday night. Heather has been battling cancer but while Darren withdrew from the Championship to be at his wife’s side, he sent a message to McGinley wishing him the best of luck.
Only Cabrera stood in his way and McGinley can be proud of the way he played as a true champion.
“I wanted to win this for her today,” said McGinley, after his closing 67 left him on 13 under par 275. “It just wasn’t meant to be. I played well but Angel played better and it was his week. I gave it my best shot but at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough. All credit to Angel.”
There were, of course, a number of positives for McGinley, one being that his second place lifted him into the World Top 50 and an all important berth in the US Open. Colin Montgomerie, who finished 11th after a final round 66, also looks set to climb to 50th and earn a place in the field at Pinehurst next month.
Nick O’Hern made a massive charge up the leaderboard with a course record equalling 64 to finish third on 11 under par 277 but simply had too much ground to make up. The third round 76 did the damage but O’Hern showed tremendous strength of character to bounce back in considerable style to register another top five finish, his fourth in seven starts.
“64 is a nice way to finish. Unfortunately I was too far back but Sunday’s are usually quite good for me,” said the Australian.
“It was one of those days where I just had the ball on a bit of string. I bogeyed the first but after that I played really good golf. I am playing all right, just need to get that victory though. Yesterday just killed me.”
David Howell of England, runner-up in the last two weeks, finished fourth on nine under par after a closing 71 after a frustrating day in which the putts refused to drop while the Swedish trio of Peter Hanson, Peter Hedblom and Marten Olander finished a further stroke back on eight under par.