Thomas Aiken captured last year’s Open de Espana by two shots in the week that Seve Ballesteros lost his fight with cancer. Here, in an excerpt from The European Tour Yearbook 2012, we recap how the South African claimed his maiden European Tour title in Spain.
The Open de España, rightly, belonged to Thomas Aiken who produced a stirring showing at Real Club de Golf El Prat to claim his maiden European Tour title. But the thoughts of everyone at the Barcelona venue, and indeed around the world, were for Seve Ballesteros who lost his fight for life in the early hours of Saturday morning.
There would never be a good time for the world to lose the charismatic Spaniard but perhaps there was a certain synchronicity that he left us during a week where the eyes of European golf were focused on his home country. Certainly, it was a point touched on by the new champion who, respectfully, dedicated his win to Ballesteros.
Coming into the tournament after a seven week lay-off, Aiken did not know what to expect but after consecutive rounds of 68 gave him the lead at the halfway stage, the 27 year old South African soon knew what he wanted.
A level par 72 on an emotionally charged Saturday, where every single player wore a black ribbon on their clothing as a mark of respect, kept Aiken’s nose in front and he held his nerve coming down the stretch on Sunday to hold off the challenge of the eventual runner-up, the experienced Dane Anders Hansen, to win by two shots.
It was Aiken’s first victory in his 104th event and marked the fifth time this season that a European Tour event had ended with a South African winner.
To order your copy of The European Tour Yearbook 2012, a 240-page, full colour hardback Official Publication with iconic pictures by Getty Images and essays from some of the game's top writers that takes you every step of the way through 52 tournaments and 29 destinations on The 2011 Race to Dubai, click here.