Sunday, 27 May 2007

Anders Hansen secured the 2007 BMW PGA Championship after an enthralling final day at Wentworth Club, Surrey, England, ended with the Dane holing a tremendous 25 foot birdie putt in a sudden-death play-off against England’s Justin Rose.

That winning putt was worthy of any championship and made Hansen the worthiest of winners. As soon as he struck it there was never any doubt as to his ball’s final destination as it snaked down the green and broke perfectly from left to right before finding the middle of the cup.

In colloquial golfing parlance, Hansen ‘drained it’, and in doing so secured the first prize of €725,000 and made a quite incredible leap of 253 places on The European Tour Order of Merit, from 262nd to ninth position in one almighty swoop.

Indeed, the same could be said for his performance over the last two rounds of the four spectacular days of golf that made the 2007 BMW PGA Championship another memorable week the Championship’s imposing history.

Level par after the first two days, not many observers would have tipped Hansen to lift a second BMW PGA Championship title, but an excellent five under par 67 on Saturday afternoon left him just five off the pace going into the last round.

As the heavens opened and conditions became strenuous over the West Course, Hansen kept his head down, maintained his cool and got the job done with a final round of three under par 69 that saw him overtake clubhouse leader Vijay Singh, with Rose, Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Richard Sterne all coming down the stretch with a chance to catch or pass him.

As the rain swept the West Course, the battled intensified with Singh the first to take up cudgels. After a bogey four at the second, the Fijian was ten shots off the lead, but seven birdies and no errors in the last 16 holes saw him equal the course record and set a tough standard for the rest of the field. Not for the first time, Singh underlined the fact that, at 44, he remains one of the most potent forces in world golf.

Cabrera, the 2005 Champion, sprinted to the turn in 31 to press his claims for a second title in three years. As the challengers - including 54-hole leaders Ross Fisher and Paul Broadhurst - slipped back, the powerful Argentine golfer gained momentum. However Cabrera was undone by an uncharacteristic error off the 15th tee which cost him a double bogey six.

Despite his enormous power, Cabrera was unable to birdie either of the closing two par fives and he came up just short, as did Jimenez and Sterne, who had set himself up for a storming finale by holing a long birdie putt at the 16th.

In the end, Rose was the only man who could match Hansen’s eight under total, which he did in the most thrilling fashion with a sublime pitching wedge approach to the 18th green. Well aware that he needed to get up and down from 109 yards to force extra holes, the Englishman produced a majestic approach that checked 20 feet beyond the flag and spun back to with six inches of the hole.

He could not repeat that stroke of genius in the play-off though, and after Hansen holed out so magnificently at the first extra hole, Rose’s own birdie effort slid past the hole to leave the Dane celebrating his second victory in The European Tour’s flagship event.

“I think it means a lot more to me this time than the first time I won it,” smiled Hansen. “It’s just a fantastic feeling because I have put in so much hard work and effort recently.

“What means most to me is how I feel about myself and how I feel about my game and what I do, and right now it feels pretty good.

“I have say a great thank you to my caddie, John McClaren, for everything he has done for me this week. This is the first week that he’s been out with me and I don’t think that I could have won without him. He just seemed to understand how I was thinking and what was going on in my mind and my golf swing. In fact, I definitely couldn’t have done it without him.”

Rose was gracious in defeat. “I guess it is disappointing, you are that close, when you're obviously in a play-off, you come that close to winning a tournament and it was almost really weird,” said the Englishman.

“It was over so quickly. Anders rolled in the putt and I missed mine and that was it.  That’s what sudden death's all about. All in all, it's hard not to be pleased about playing so well at home and playing so well at a tournament that I really do love and a tournament that I've come to watch many times as a kid.  So to be right up there in the mix would have been a dream of mine back in the day.”

There can be little doubt that a player of Rose’s ability will have further opportunities to fulfill that dream in the near future, but for the moment it is Hansen who is living the dream after that wonderful sudden-death putt that secured the second BMW PGA Championship of his career.


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