Sunday, 20 August 2006

Alejandro Cañizares of Spain produced a magnificent final round performance at the Imperial Collection Russian Open to become the quickest Affiliate Member to win in European Tour history. Canizares, playing in only his third European Tour event, surpassed the previous record holders, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, to win the first prize of €130,641 with his record breaking score of 22 under par 266 at Le Meridien Moscow Country Club.

Cañizares’s achievement cannot be overstated. By winning in Russia, the 23 year old has secured a potentially priceless two year exemption to The European Tour as well as a place in the HSBC Champions tournament at the end of the year, where he will have the chance to go head to head with World Number One Tiger Woods and the rest of the world’s best in China.

For now, he can celebrate this most stunning of victories in Russia. His four rounds of 66-67-67-66 were crafted in the main by his quite frightening iron play, coupled with an assured putting stroke and a commanding presence on the tee.

Cañizares looks the real deal, a player capable of going all the way to the very top of this most demanding of sports. He certainly has the ability, and, after his performance at Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, his mental toughness cannot be called into question.

He needed all of those attributes to emerge at the top of the leaderboard, winning by four strokes from Scotland’s David Drysdale, and by five from defending champion Mikael Lundberg of Sweden and Ireland’s Gary Murphy – all three of whom were among the favourites to win the tournament.

Murphy, who played with Cañizares during the third round and posted six under par 66 to tie Lundberg, paid the Spaniard a fitting tribute, stating that he has as much talent as Garcia did when he was starting out in the professional game.

“I played with Sergio about a year after he turned professional and this kid is as good as he was then,” said Murphy. “Okay, he has to keep going and getting better but he has got a lot of game and could go to the very top level.”

Drysdale partnered Cañizares in the final group in the last round, posting a 69 to take outright second place and win € 87,096, and was equally as complimentary as Murphy.

He said: “You can’t take anything away from him today, he played brilliantly. I started one behind him and leveled with him at one stage but he never flinched. Some of his iron play was awesome.”

The man himself was delighted to secure his maiden Tour win so quickly, and in doing so, follow in his father José Maria’s footsteps as a European Tour champion.

“This is unbelievable,” said Cañizares. “This means everything. I was trying to get my card through exemptions and now I have done it by winning my third event so this is way beyond my expectations.

“Now I can focus on winning more. I hit the ball great this week and my rhythm and timing with my irons was perfect. This is probably the best that I have played so far in my career, one of my best weeks ever.

“I spoke to my father last night and he told me to keep my confidence high and not to think of anybody else out there. He told me to beat the golf course not my opponents because you have no control over your opponents but you do have control over what you do on the course.

“He won seven times on Tour and played in four Ryder Cups so that is a nice target for to try and beat over the next few years!”

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