Spanish rookie Alvaro Quiros stunned many of the world’s leading players when he came from behind with a closing 67 to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship by one stroke at Leopard Creek Country Club. The 23 year old shot signed for a total of 275, 13 under par, to edge out long-time leader, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
Schwartzel, the 2004 winner, was one shot behind the Spaniard playing the last, but deposited his second shot on the par five 18th into the water surrounding the notorious green, effectively ending his chances of forcing a play-off.
Quiros, on the 18th green in two, just missed his eagle attempt from 65 feet and tapped in for a birdie before pacing around anxiously as Schwartzel made his ultimately futile attempt to match his final total.
Just a year ago Quiros was playing on the Peugeot Tour in Spain and graduated to full time playing rights on the European Challenge Tour when he won the Morson International Pro-Am Challenge during the summer.
That enabled Quiros to collect the 18th card and he then went to the Qualifying School to try to improve on that ranking, eventually taking the 34th out of 35 cards at San Roque Club.
However there was no hint of what was to follow in his first start on The European Tour since becoming a fully paid up card-carrying Member like his close friend Alejandro Cañizares, who also won on The European Tour last August.
Quiros opened with a round of 74 but subsequent rounds of 66, 68 and 67 saw him deliver Spain’s second victory of the new 2007 season following José Manuel Lara’s win in the UBS Hong Kong Open.
"I have not been hitting the ball very straight off the tee and Saturday was terrible, I was pulling everything," said Quiros. "But with my putting, which has been very poor the last five months, I didn't miss. And when I have a six iron in my hand I think I can do anything, I don't use it as an umbrella!"
England’s Lee Westwood and Mark Pilkington of Wales, tied for second two strokes behind Schwartzel at the start of the final round, both endured frustration on the course. Westwood finished third on nine under par after a final round of 73 while Pilkington shot a 75 for a share of sixth place.
The Welshman, last season’s Challenge Tour winner, was in good position to challenge for the title but was undone by three successive double bogeys at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes.
A succession of huge drives off the tees by the strapping Spaniard – one of the loner hitters on Tour - and a deft touch on the greens saw the man from Cadiz in southern Spain hit the front with three birdies on the front nine followed by three successive birdies between the 13th and 15th.
Quiros, who is being coached by former Ryder Cup star José Rivero, admitted that he thought his birdie at 18 would only earn him a play-off with Schwartzel, but the South African, who held at least a share of the lead for the first three rounds, could only par the final hole for a level par 72.
Schwartzel, the 2004 champion and 2005 runner-up said he was aiming for the middle of the green on the par five 18th and two putts to force a playoff. "The wind was coming from the right and I wanted to be left of the flag in the middle of the green, but I just overdid it.
It was just a bad shot," Schwartzel said."I was in the fairway the whole time, but nothing happened with the putter. On the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth holes, my putts went over the edge of the hole."