Nicolas Colsaerts coasted to his first European Tour victory as he ran out a four shot winner at the Volvo China Open.
More than ten years after turning professional on his 18th birthday, having become the second youngest European Tour Qualifying School graduate, the big-hitting Belgian finally realised his potential with a closing six under par round of 66.
That left him 24 under for the week, four clear of Spain’s Pablo Martin, New Zealander Danny Lee, Ireland’s Peter Lawrie and Dane Søren Kjeldsen.
Much of the last decade has been a struggle at the top level for Colsaerts, but he established himself last season by finishing 67th on The Race to Dubai and topping the driving distances.
And his comprehensive victory at Luxehills International Country Club makes him only the second Belgian to win on The European Tour – the other was Phillipe Touissant in 1974.
“I’m enjoying every second of it,” he said. “I’m dizzy - my head is going all over the place. I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time and I think I did it in the best of manners so I’m really delighted.
“I guess a lot of kids are going to look up to this victory. I actually know the last guy Phillipe Touissant pretty well and I’m sure that he is very happy for me too.
“A lot of people were expecting big things of me and for me to win tournaments a long time before.
“I lost my card, I got on Tour pretty young and I didn’t know how to handle myself. The lowest point was 2008 and I had to get my life back together.
“I was doing basically ever wrong thing you could possibly thing of. One day I woke up though - I went to Australia for four months and it changed me forever.
“It’s been a hell of a journey looking back, from when I was 18 and got on Tour. I didn’t really have any idea of the level and how high you had to raise your game to play on Tour. I never lost faith of getting to where I am and I’m glad I did it this way.”
One clear of Han Chang-won overnight, Colsaerts showed few signs of nerves as he birdied the first, third and seventh in an outward 33.
By that point Martin had emerged as the main challenger, the Alfred Dunhill Championship winner firing ten birdies in his nine under 63 to set the clubhouse target.
But Colsaerts pulled further clear with three birdies in four holes from the 12th.
Where most players would play safe on the par five last and lay-up with a first win within touching distance, Colsaerts bombed a drive over 350 yards and cleared the water in two, only to three-putt for his par.
“This course was set up in a way that people would shoot good scores and the last holes there are two par fives out of three,” he added. “I wanted to get myself to a certain point coming to 16 and those two birdies on 14 and 15 got me there and to a certain comfort zone.
“Maybe too much of one. That was the reason I made five on the 16th rather than birdie. That was a bit of a wake up call and I told myself it still wasn’t done. I had the cushion I was hoping for but it still had to be done until the last.
“When you hit it 330 yards all the time it is difficult to keep it straight but this course was set up for my game. Sometimes I hit three woods to make sure I was in position but this course didn’t set up for playing a certain way it was more about going for the par fives and distance. That’s where you capitalise on your week and it suited me pretty well.”
Martin played with Christian Nilsson (64) and Danny Willett (65) in a group that shot a remarkable 24 under par total between them.
"Fantastic, great day, I’ve never seen so many birdies in one group ever," he said.
"I think it must be some sort of record! It was good fun. I put a good score in there."
|T2||MARTIN BENAVIDES, Pablo||ESP||18||-20|