Austrian Markus Brier cruised to his first tournament victory outside his home country with a comfortable five stroke win in the Volvo China Open at Shanghai Silport Golf Club.
Brier, leader by one going into the final round, birdied two of his first three holes and never looked back, closing with a four under par 67 for a winning ten under par total of 274.
Australia’s Scott Hend, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and South African Andrew McLardy who all finished in joint second place a distant five strokes off the pace in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour, the Asian Tour and China Golf Association.
“I dreamt about winning yesterday and thought it would be good. The Volvo China Open is a great tournament to win. I have been to China a few times and always played well and have always liked it,” said Brier, who won his maiden European Tour title in the BA-CA Golf Open, presented by Telekom Austria on The European Tour last year.
It was his third win at that event which was previously staged on the Challenge Tour in 2002 and 2004. All three tournaments were held at Fontana Golf Club, his home course in Vienna.
The win at the Volvo China Open was Brier’s maiden triumph outside of Austria, earning him the top prize of €249,124 which lifted him to 20th on The European Tour Order of Merit.
With softer greens due to overnight showers, the 38 year old champion was quick of the start striking birdies on the second and third holes before a dropped shot on the fourth. Brier, who turned pro in 1995, then pulled away from Hend with two more birdies on the eighth and ninth holes. The Austrian walked tall after a five feet birdie putt on the 18th hole sealed his win.
“I tried not to think too much about winning today and I was fortunate not to be too nervous on the last three of four holes. I holed some long putts and my putting was very good because the greens were in good shape. That was the key as I didn't hit it really close but holed a lot of five, six and seven yard putts,” admitted the champion.
“It makes me feel like a better player now as at home I always had the home advantage. It is a very good win here and it was the next step to win abroad,” added Brier.
McDowell birdied the last to finally shoot a 69 after three rounds of 70 to lie in joint second place on five under par 279.
“It was frustrating week in some ways but hit the ball progressively better as the week went on,” he said. “I would have liked to have put Markus under a bit of pressure. I played plenty well to have done the business this week but fair play to Markus. Birdies the last three yesterday and has led from the front today. He is a lovely guy and great to see him win a second tour event. But I am very pleased with my performance and looking forward to next week. Bit of patience and let the results come. To have five weeks off and come straight back and post a good finish I am pretty pleased.”
Hend, who was two under after nine holes, was disappointed with his run on the back nine when he suffered two straight bogeys on the tenth and 11th holes. He slipped down the leaderboard with a third bogey on the 17th but pulled one back on the last for a level par 71 to match McDowell’s total.
“I am pretty disappointed. I hope to digest it. But I’m sure I’ll put this behind me by tomorrow,” said Hend, who delivered a similar result at the Pakistan Open on the Asian Tour in January.
McLardy shot a one under par 70 to also lie on five under par, claiming his second runners-up finish of the season which will secure his card very early in the season and gives him a cushion to take some time off after the birth of his first child in a few weeks.
“The cheque will pay for the pram!” quipped McLardy.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Steven Jeppesen set a new course record of 63, eight under par, to finish in tied 14th place. He bettered the previous course record of 64 set by James Kingston in 2002.