Peter Lawrie made it a hat-trick of Irish victories in three consecutive weeks after his dramatic play-off victory over home favourite Ignacio Garrido in the Open de España at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla.
Lawrie’s maiden European Tour title – secured at the second extra hole thanks largely to a superb bunker shot – followed the breakthrough victory of his close friend and compatriot Damien McGrane at the Volvo China Open, and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke’s first win for two-and-a-half years at last week’s BMW Asian Open.
McGrane – his room-mate on Tour – had turned the Volvo China Open into a procession, winning by nine shots, but Lawrie was made to work far harder for his victory in soaring temperatures in Seville.
Sitting on eleven under par after 12 holes of his final round, Lawrie’s chances of victory appeared remote. But four birdies in his last six holes saw the 34 year old installed as the clubhouse leader on 15 under par.
Overnight leader Garrido – playing in the final group with compatriot Miguel Angel Jiménez – had toiled on the front nine, dropping three shots; but a revival after the turn meant he needed a birdie on the 72nd hole to take the tournament to a play-off.
The Spaniard, whose father Antonio won the Spanish Open in 1972, duly rolled in a superb 30ft putt on the 18th green to ensure there would be more drama on an already eventful day in Seville.
And so to the play-off, with both men finding the fairway off the 18th tee. Lawrie landed his approach shot around 30 feet from the pin, whilst Garrido hit a sublime shot to within six feet of the hole.
Lawrie miraculously sunk his putt – via the left hand edge of the cup – to put the pressure back on Garrido. The Spaniard duly followed him in for birdie, meaning the pair returned to the 18th tee.
This time Lawrie found a fairway bunker, but found the heart of the green with a superbly struck eight iron from the sand.
In contrast, Garrido could only look on in horror as his approach pitched at pin height, but spun viciously back into the lake guarding the green.
And so Lawrie, after Garrido had pitched on for four, was left with two putts to seal his maiden European Tour victory and claim a £262,000 winner’s cheque which saw him climb from 88th to 12th on the Order of Merit.
The Dubliner, who in 2003 became the first Irishman to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award, said: “It feels unbelievable – I’m lost for words. I thought I’d already won the tournament once, because I didn’t think Ignacio would hole that putt on the 18th.
“So I had to regroup for the play-off, and ended up hitting one of the best putts of my life to keep myself in contention. It was a one in a hundred chance, and luckily it dropped in. I guess you have to get the rub of the green if you’re going to win a golf tournament these days.
“I knew if I got things going today, I would have a decent chance of winning. I’ve been playing quite well lately, without really getting my rewards, so maybe it was just my turn today. It was nice to add another trophy for the Irish contingent. Damien [McGrane], my room-mate on Tour, started the ball rolling in China, then Darren [Clarke] picked up the baton last week.
“I’m glad to keep the run going, after the French guys had a run of their own recently. Hopefully this sets up the rest of the season nicely for me, and I can kick on now. I’m not really a party person, but I’ll certainly enjoy this moment.”
Earlier in the day, Denmark’s Søren Hansen holed his second shot on the eighth for an eagle two en route to a round of 69 which saw him finish in third place on 14 under par.
One shot back in a tie for fourth were the Spanish duo of Alfredo Garcia-Heredia and Jiménez, and England’s David Lynn.
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