Sergio Garcia, who lost out to his house guest Luke Donald last year, turned the tables this time around when Crans Montana's most famous resident captured the Omega European Masters for the first time by a shot from Swede Peter Gustafsson.
Garcia shot a fourth round 68 for a 14 under par total of 270 while Gustafsson finished like an express train with a round of 64 – the best of the day – to finish second for the second time this season. Garcia’s Ryder Cup team-mate, Paul Casey closed with a 66 for third round of 272 while Donald, a lodger at Chez Garcia this week, tied for fourth with Garry Houston of Wales on 273.
Garcia, who was collecting his sixth European Tour title and his second victory of 2005 after a win in the Booz Allen Classic on the US PGA Tour, immediately dedicated the success to a close friend and amateur golfer, Maria Garcia Estrada, who did from cancer at the weekend.
The new champion was choked with emotion as he explained how he believed Maria was looking down on him as he holed a 22 foot chip for a birdie two at the 16th hole which effectively clinched the title.
“I guess Maria was watching me from the sky” said Garcia wistfully after safely negotiating the final two holes with a pair of par figures. “She has been fighting cancer for about eight months and unfortunately she couldn’t handle it any moe. She was a lovely caring person and it’s such a shame that she’s gone.”
Garcia set out with a one shot lead over Houston, who played with great composure over the weekend and shot a closing 70 to earn €78,540 to effectively secure his playing privileges for 2006 on The European Tour International Schedule.
A front nine of 32 suggested that Garcia’s path to glory would be a smooth as the glacier high above Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club. Instead, Gustafsson emerged from the pack to card an eight-birdie score and set the clubhouse mark on 13 under par.
Casey, who opened with an eagle and turned in 32, also threatened to make a charge but his challenge was undone by a pair of bogeys at the par three 13th and 16th. Donald, who 12 months earlier had repaid his landlord for the week by beating him comprehensively, was unable to catch fire this time.
Garcia added; “I am very pleased to have my second win of the season and to start The Ryder Cup qualifying this way. I couldn’t have done any better! My game wasn’t as sharp as usual on the back nine but I hung in well and came through.”
Gustafsson, noted for his penchant for wearing floppy hats of varying designs, peeked out from under his floral headgear to see that he might be in a position to win his first title on The European Tour. However he came up one stroke short.
Casey, who enjoyed his most profitable weeks since the early part of the season, admitted he was “very happy” to be back among the leaders again. He said: “I was just trying to stay in touch and came close to catching the leaders a few times, but overall I can’t be too frustrated. I feel I am getting back where I want to be.”
Donald conceded that it was “game over” when Garcia holed out at the 16th to move to 14 under par. After finishing three strokes behind the winner, he said: “My finish was disappointing. I felt I still had a chance after birdieing the 13th, but I didn’t make a single birdie on the par fives. That killed me.”
It was a truly memorable week for Houston, the 34 year old World Number 433, who said: “I’ve had a fantastic week. I’ve have kept my card and I get into the Linde German Masters next week. I enjoyed the experience playing with two true gentlemen in Sergio and Luke.”
Meanwhile Omega have announced that they have renewed their commitment to be title sponsor of the Omega European masters for a further five years.