Ireland’s Damien McGrane defied the elements to claim his maiden European Tour title with a convincing nine stroke victory in the Volvo China Open at Beijing CBD International Golf Club.
After the calm of the first three days came the storm as an incessant downpour battered the players on the final day but McGrane was unfazed and remained completely in control as his opponents fell away.
For three days the Irishman putted beautifully and that touch stayed with him through the final round as time and again he saved par while others faltered. A closing round of 73 for a ten under par total of 278 left him nine clear of the English pair of Simon Griffiths and Oliver Wilson and Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera.
From the outset it was a war of attrition in China’s Olympic City and on a day when 20 players started the day under par but only four finished in red figures, McGrane was effectively the last man standing.
Starting the final round with a three stroke cushion, McGrane dropped shots on the second and eighth but he was making fewer errors than those chasing and landed a killer blow when he holed a chip shot from the edge of the bunker on the ninth. Another birdie at the 11th followed and there was no looking back and by the time he stood on the 18th tee he had the luxury of a ten stroke lead. A closing bogey did nothing to dampen his spirits.
“I’m absolutely overjoyed,” said McGrane. “It is my first win and, to be honest, it is an amazing feeling to have won my first tournament. I have been thinking about winning one tournament for so long and this week everything went my way. I had good fortune, loved the course and the bad weather didn’t put me off my game today. Everything I have ever expected and now I have my first win on this Tour which is big for me.”
McGrane putted sensationally all week and his tap in on the 72 hole was only his 96th putt of the week, statistics which underpinned his success.
“My short game this week was excellent and I knew if the weather turned, everyone would need their short game and would rely on it. I was lucky in that I knew going out I had the short game required and I made the most of my opportunities and there wasn’t many out there. My putting was good and for that one reason I have won this Volvo China Open.
“Anyone with any sense wouldn’t have gone out in that. It was one of those days where everyone had to knuckle down and do they best they can. It was extremely difficult and I hit woods and rescues into all the par fours. It really was a tough day in the office. But my putting was good and you had to putt well for pars let alone birdies. It came my way today, the weather if not on my side, helped stop other players making a charge at my lead. Once I made as many pars as possible the tournament was mine and the Volvo China Open was mine.”
For the record, he became the seventh first-time winner in his 169th European Tour event with comfortably the largest winning margin of the season. Now he plans on spending some of the €232,121 first prize on a holiday to Antarctica.
“Every player who plays The European Tour, their dream is to win and you have to win once,” he added. “I have won once so the world is my oyster now and hopefully I can go on and win more events. Even defend my title successfully next year. It is great to travel worldwide now and no matter where you win in the world it is sweet and my first win, it is what I have worked for since I was a little boy.”
Despite a closing 79, Lorenzo-Vera was thrilled to have secured his best finish to date in his rookie year, a feat matched by Griffiths while Wilson was philosophical in securing another runners-up finish and accepting that an under par score reuired to catch McGrane was not possible in the conditions.