Sunday, 08 May 2011
Thomas Aiken dedicating his victory to Seve  (Getty Images)
Thomas Aiken dedicating his victory to Seve (Getty Images)

South African Thomas Aiken lifted his first European Tour title at the Open de España - and was quick to dedicate the win to three-time winner Seve Ballesteros.

"It's been a sad week with Seve passing away," he said. "I definitely want to dedicate this win to him with it being his home Open and what he gave to his home fans and to golf.

“He was everything to the game of golf and I am happy to have won for him - any of us would have won for him.

“I remember Seve, how he enjoyed life and how he enjoyed the game. He has been an inspiration for me and has kept me working hard.

“My first European Tour win has not been an easy week, very emotional.”

The 27 year old from Johannesburg, playing his first tournament after a seven-week lay-off, shot a closing 70 at El Prat near Barcelona to beat Dane Anders Hansen by two.

Aiken took the first prize of €333,330 with a ten under par total of 278.

"I don't think it's quite hit home yet," he added. "I've been waiting for this for a long, long time and I've been knocking on the door. I'm ecstatic."

With all the players again wearing black ribbons in memory of the Spanish superstar, Aiken became the fifth South African to win on The European Tour already this season – Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel among them, of course.

He resumed two in front and doubled that with birdies at the second and sixth.

He added another on the short 11th and after failing to get up and down from sand at the 223 yard 13th he came straight back with a further birdie.

Three-putting the 15th cut the gap to three again and when he drove into sand down the 17th the outcome was still far from certain.

However, Aiken, six times a winner in his home country, saved par and finished with another.

Playing partner Hansen, never able to pile on the pressure, birdied the par five last to push Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal into joint third.

“I played pretty good but he played solid and he got too far ahead,” said Hansen.

“He made the crucial putts and I didn’t. I gave it a run, but he played great and got the putts at the right time, that makes a huge difference.

“It was hard work for him up there, but he did well. He's been so close so many times and he deserves it.  I am as happy as you can be in a second place.

“The news about Seve was awful. I only knew when I saw ‘Seve forever’ on 17 and I felt awful. He is one of the reasons I am here today. We loved watching him because he was so inspiring. I am really sad.”

For 27 year old rookie Jamieson it was the best of his three top-ten finishes already this year and he earned a cheque for €112,600.

Welshman Phillip Price and France's Gregory Havret both bogeyed the 18th to drop into a tie for fifth with Scot Paul Lawrie, England's Simon Dyson and David Horsey and Havret's compatriot Romain Wattel.

Jose Maria Olazábal, mourning the loss of his great friend and ex-Ryder Cup partner Ballesteros, managed only a 77 and fell outside the top 50 on eight over.

Aiken did not even touch a club during a month-long trip to the Bahamas and even with three weeks of practising at home after that he came with no great expectations.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1AIKEN, ThomasRSA18-10
2HANSEN, AndersDEN18-8
T5DYSON, SimonENG18-6

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