Sergio Garcia’s resurgence continued as he became the first Spaniard to win a strokeplay event at Club de Golf Valderrama with a battling triumph at the Andalucía Masters.
Garcia, also a winner on home soil in last week’s Castelló Masters and three times a runner-up at this venue in 2004, 2005 and 2006, carded a level par 71 to finish on six under in Sotogrande.
That put him one clear of Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who led for much of the front nine and then birdied 16 and 17 to re-ignite his challenge, with Scotland’s Richie Ramsay a shot further back in third and Ireland’s Shane Lowry fourth on three under.
Garcia will climb back into the top 20 of the Official Golf World Ranking with this win, his fifth European Tour victory on Spanish soil.
“It’s very, very special,” said the 31 year old. “Valderrama - I have so much history here and unfortunately it wasn’t as good as this until now!"
Asked about his return to form following a long barren spell, he added: “I knew that I had game, because I had it before, but obviously, when your head is not in the right spot it doesn’t matter how much game you have, your muscles won’t listen.
“I’m just happy with my year. We all know how difficult golf is. This is a working process, I’ll keep working on it, and trying hard and enjoying it.”
Jiménez initially joined Garcia on six under with two birdies inside his first three holes and found himself in sole possession of the lead when his fellow countryman three-putted the sixth before finding trouble off the tee at the next and making another bogey.
The 47 year old’s failure to capitalise on a host of further opportunities on the front nine proved costly, however. While he dropped shots on the 13th and 15th, Garcia recovered well and returned to his overnight score with birdies at 11 and 14.
A superb up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the par four 16th kept him at six under, but Jiménez made three at the same hole and picked up a further shot at the infamous 17th to reduce the gap to one, having set up an eagle chance with a magnificent approach shot over the lake guarding the green.
Another birdie at 18 looked likely when Jiménez found the fairway and green, but he left his 15-foot putt agonisingly short and Garcia, despite missing the putting surface at the last, held his nerve to claim a second successive triumph.
“I’m out of words,” said Garcia. “It’s been two amazing weeks. Miguel fought so hard and had some good chances coming in, 17 for eagle and 18 for birdie.
“I wasn’t as good as probably the last 13 days, but we hung on and managed to pull through.
“On 18, we decided to play a little more conservative and make sure we hit the fairway, then the chip was just amazing. I thought it was going in.
“I’ve been in that situation three or four times on this course. It wasn’t easy, but I believed in my ability. To be able to hit the chip I hit there and roll the putt in with the pressure, it was nice.”
Garcia now leads the European Ryder Cup points race and added: “Ryder Cup years are always special for me, so hopefully we can make that team.”
Jiménez was keen to take the positives from his performance throughout the week, but ultimately rued his struggles with the putter.
“I’m disappointed. I’ve played great golf all week but the only birdies I made were gimmies. I hit the ball beautifully, but my putting wasn’t half decent.
“Being second at Valderrama will make me go up the rankings and play the Majors next year. That’s good in the long run, but for me the only important thing this week was to win in front of my home crowd; my family, my neighbours, my friends. So right now I’m disappointed.”
Gracious as ever in defeat, Jiménez put aside his own frustration to pay tribute to Garcia.
“Congratulations to Sergio for his back-to-back wins,” he added. “Yesterday we played together and he deserves it, because he is playing great.
“Finally a Spaniard has won in Valderrama. This morning I told Sergio, ‘If I’m not the winner I hope you win,’ and it happened.”
Ramsay, top of the leaderboard after days one and two, briefly jumped into a share of the lead with Garcia on the back nine, only to then shank his tee shot on the par three 15th.
His ball was only found after the five-minute search time had elapsed and the resulting double bogey effectively ended his hopes.
A birdie at 18 at least ensured Ramsay claimed outright third ahead of Lowry, who birdied the third, fourth, fifth, 12th and 14th in a fine 67, the joint-best round of the day.
England’s Steve Webster, who shot 66 yesterday, got within one of the lead with four birdies, but back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17, where he found the water with his second shot, saw him finish in fifth on two under, with Grégory Havret the only other man in red figures.
|2||JIMÉNEZ, Miguel Angel||ESP||18||-5|