Miguel Angel Jiménez won for the seventh time in the space of 39 tournaments, conquering the Roman Road with a course record-equalling 62 in the final round to win The Celtic Manor Wales Open by four strokes.
It was his second title of the season following his victory in the Omega Hong Kong Open and it was the manner in which he won which was most impressive.
With nine holes to play as many half a dozen players were vying for the lead but Jiménez, after an outward half of 33, roared home in 29 strokes for a seven under par 62 and 14 under par total of 262 and out of reach of fellow Spaniard José Manuel Lara and Swede Martin Erlandsson.
Birdies at the 13th and 14th edged Jiménez a stroke ahead of Erlandsson, who was enjoying the best round of his life, but it was at the 16th that he struck the decisive blow. With 253 yards to the pin, Jiménez hit a towering three wood onto the green then converted a snaking 45 foot putt across the green.
Jiménez sealed the 13th European Tour victory of his career with a birdie on the last to rapturous applause from the Welsh crowd. It was the lowest final round by a winner this season, beating the 63 by Niclas Fasth in the Holden New Zealand Open.
“The key was the putting,” said the 41 year old Ryder Cup player. “I hit it very well and only made one mistake when I bogeyed the second. But I hit it very well all day and the birdies came. I’m delighted.”
Jiménez has been in devastating form since concentrating on The European Tour in 2003.
“This is my 17th season on Tour and there is not any point of trying to play two Tours. I feel I want to give back to The European Tour. Even in America I never left this Tour, but it is tough to play both and have success. Now I have decided to play only here and got to America only for the Majors and the World Golf Championships. I want to concentrate on The European Tour, my home Tour.”
Erlandsson was arguably equally as ecstatic after what was by far and away the best day of his career. His six under par 63 kept the pressure on Jiménez throughout the final afternoon and by finishing joint second, registered his first top ten. Indeed prior to this week he had not registered a top 40 finish since winning his card at the Qualifying School last November but the €188,841 cheque catapulted him from 226th in The European Tour Order of Merit to 48th.
“I just went for it today,” said the 31 year old. “Saturday was a pretty good round but I didn’t get the putts going. Today I thought lets go for it, all out and see what happens.
“I am in the situation in the rankings where I have nothing to lose so just said to myself, lets go for it and see what happens. It is fantastic.”
Lara also picked up the biggest cheque of his career with his highest finish, joining Erlandsson on ten under par 266 thanks to two late birdies on the 16th and 17th holes for a round of 66.
Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin finished fourth on nine under par 267 after a final round 67 while overnight leader Alessandro Tadini of Italy battled well to share fifth place with Swede Joakim Haeggman and Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam.
The Welshman got off to a flying start by chipping in for a birdie three on the first to move into a share of the lead but missed birdie putts on the fourth from four feet and critically on the sixth from 14 inches sapped his confidence and in the end he was pleased to have got round in one under par 68.