Nicolas Colsaerts (Getty Images)
Nicolas Colsaerts beat Graeme McDowell on the final green to win the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
In blustery conditions at Finca Cortesin, the Belgian bomber continued his remarkable record in Volvo-sponsored events. Since winning his maiden European Tour title at the Volvo China Open in 2011 he has finished third at last year’s Volvo World Match Play, fourth at the Volvo Golf Champions and second at the 2012 Volvo China Open.
But he was pushed all the way by McDowell, Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup hero, who levelled the contest three times on the front nine and twice halved a two-hole deficit after the turn.
“It means everything,” he said. “Where do I start? I felt that I had a pretty good shot at it last year in the same format, and I was a little disappointed not to get to the final.
“Two days ago I was in my room taking a nap thinking I was going to fly home. It means so much to be here, it's fantastic.
“I played well in tough conditions. Wind like this, you know it's going to be very difficult. Graeme McDowell, he's won the US Open, so he's used to playing in tough conditions. I knew that it was going to be a tough game in conditions like these.”
Colsaerts, who knocked McDowell out at the quarter-final stage last year, won on the last after a game in which he was ahead on four separate occasions.
The 29 year old from Brussels, whose 316 yard average off the tee is longer than that of America's number one bomber Bubba Watson, is also into both the Official World Golf Ranking's top 50 and close to a Ryder Cup qualifying position.
It all came his way after a week of living dangerously at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
Like last year's winner Ian Poulter, Colsaerts did not win either of his group games and survived only after a play-off with Charl Schwartzel.
His semi-final with Paul Lawrie this morning began with him losing the first four holes, but he then launched a fightback and after an hour-long thunderstorm delay won at the 20th.
That set up a clash McDowell, who beat Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello on the last, and a year after beating him 2 and 1 in the last eight he took the €700,000 cheque.
In increasingly difficult conditions, with winds gusting over 30mph, McDowell, without a victory since he beat Tiger Woods in California 17 months ago, was hoping to become the first Irish winner of a championship dating back to 1964.
He had to be content, though, with just being their first finalist and with giving his Ryder Cup prospects a healthy boost - plus €360,000.
Colsaerts led on four separate occasions and only at the fourth time of asking did he turn that into a two up advantage.
McDowell fought, but could not get back on terms.
The turning point for Colsaerts before lunch came when Lawrie, with a chance to go second in the Ryder Cup points race, hit his second to the long eighth into the bushes.
He bogeyed that hole, lost the next to birdie to turn only two ahead, then let Colsaerts off the hook at the long 11th as the wind really picked up.
The Belgian lost his ball right, but Lawrie twice had to take penalty drops himself and eventually halved it in double-bogey sevens.
Colsaerts then birdied the 13th and 14th to level, bogeyed the 16th, but after the rain delay birdied from a bunker on the last to force sudden death and won it at the second extra hole when he got up and down again.
"I could see Paul was not very happy - he wanted the match to finish a little earlier," he said.
"I was probably feeling a lot better than he did and I thought I was going to capitalise on that.
"I probably deserved a place in the final last year, but I've got one now."
He had lost at the 19th to Poulter in last May's semi-finals.
McDowell would have been as angry as Lawrie if he had lost to Cabrera-Bello after winning three of the first four holes - and for a while it looked as if he might.
With two to play there was only one in it and the Canary Islander was the closer of the pair to the par five final hole in three, but three-putted to lose.
"It was a tough one. I've simply not putted well enough - I just need to get my putting boots on," said McDowell, as relieved as he was when Sergio Garcia three-putted the same green to go out in the quarter-finals.
He could have no complaints about the way he started the final, making an 18 footer on the first and nine footer at the short second.
However, he then fell behind at the fourth, sixth and eighth, only for Colsaerts to lose the next each time - the ninth when he duffed his pitch after McDowell had done the same.
That took them into the back nine level but McDowell found the bushes at the 11th and bogeyed to go one down for a fourth time.
He could have levelled once more on the next, but missed from three feet and then hit what looked dangerously like a shank down the 13th to bogey again and fall two down for the first time.
McDowell, though, was the one to drive the green at the downwind 14th and an eight foot birdie putt narrowed the deficit.
Both bogeyed the 15th, but McDowell dropped another on the next and in the process threw down a club in disgust, but Colsaerts three-putted the 17th.
His length paid handsome dividends at the last, though, and that was that.