Sunday, 30 June 2019
Christiaan Bezuidenhout  (Getty Images)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Getty Images)

Christiaan Bezuidenhout won his first European Tour title in emphatic style with a six shot victory at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.

The South African came into the final day at Real Club Valderrama with a five shot lead and while he saw that trimmed to three at one point, a closing 71 saw him finish at ten under and lift the trophy.

The victory also secures Bezuidenhout a Major Championship debut at The Open Championship, with the 25-year-old, Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and local favourite Adri Arnaus qualifying as the top three players in the top ten not already exempt.

Spaniards Eduardo de la Riva and Alvaro Quiros also finished in a five way tie at four under but missed out due to sitting lower on the Official World Golf Ranking, while World Number 11 Jon Rahm is already exempt.

Bezuidenhout's victory completes a remarkable rise for a player who has had to overcome adversity since a young age.

At the age of two he mistakenly drank rat poison, an incident that led to him developing a stammer that caused him to suffer anxiety.

The beta blockers he took to combat his stammer led to him failing a doping test at the 2014 Amateur Championship and while his two year ban was reduced to nine months after officials adjudged he had not been seeking to gain a competitive advantage, he missed out on representing his country at the Eisenhower Trophy.

Now five years on from those dark days, he is a European Tour winner in his 57th appearance and moves into the top ten of the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex after also finishing second and third this season.

"I'm proud of myself hanging in there today," he said.

"I had a tough stretch in the middle of my round from five to seven there. I made a great save on eight which just kept the momentum on my side and I bounced back with three birdies in a row. That just settled me down nicely, I just had to keep on hitting greens and the rest will take care of itself.

"I was nervous. It's a tough golf course, anything can happen, especially those last three holes playing into the wind. I'm really pleased with the way I played and to finish it off is unbelievable."

Bezuidenhout made a flying start with approaches to ten and four feet at the first and second to get to 12 under and at that point he led by seven shots.

A nasty lie on the third led to a first bogey of the day and while Bezuidenhout had scrambled brilliantly in round three, he seemed to have lost that touch in the middle of the front nine.

He missed the green at the fifth, failed to get up and down from a bunker on the sixth and came up short of the putting surface on the next for three bogeys in a row.

More sand was found on the eighth but this time Bezuidenhout did get up and down, and that proved to be the fillip he needed as he hit a wonderful approach to eight feet on the ninth and rolled in a left to righter for birdie.

Playing partner Rahm was within three shots at that point as he turned in 34 with birdies on the first, fourth and ninth and dropped shots on the second and fifth.

But Bezuidenhout pulled away, putting another approach to eight feet for a gain on the tenth and taking advantage of the par five 11th to lead by six, a cushion he maintained despite dropping a shot on the 15th.

Rahm's chances disappeared as he bogeyed the tenth and then made a double on the 12th, with a birdie on the 17th moving him into the tie for second.

Quiros made eight birdies and three bogeys in a roller coaster 66, while Lorenzo-Vera needed a par save on the last to get to Royal Portrush after making gains on the first, fourth and sixth in a 68.

Arnaus was one over after ten holes but made four birdies in five from the 12th before bogeying the last, while De la Riva also signed for a 69 containing birdies on the second and 11th.

Tournament host Garcia was three under after a 71 - making it 14 top tens in 15 appearances at Valderrama - a shot ahead of Thomas Bjørn, Thomas Detry, Gavin Green, Bernd Ritthammer and Hideto Tanihara.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BEZUIDENHOUT, ChristiaanRSA18-10
T2QUIROS, AlvaroESP18-4
T2DE LA RIVA, EduardoESP18-4
T2RAHM, JonESP18-4

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