Ernie Els (Getty Images)
Ernie Els held off the challenges of Thomas Björn and Alexander Levy to claim a wire-to-wire victory at the BMW International Open.
Els had taken control of the tournament with an opening 63 at Golfclub München Eichenried, but started the final round level with France’s Levy and Swede Alex Noren.
The Open Champion was overtaken by both Björn and Levy during the final round, but remained composed to sign for a third consecutive 69 and 18 under total
That was one better than his Danish playing partner Björn, who had made the first move of the day with a hat-trick of birdies from the third which included a 20 foot putt at the fourth and an approach to a foot at the fifth.
Els responded with three gains in four holes from the fifth, where he pitched to four feet, but both the South African and playing partner Björn dropped shots at the long 11th.
That allowed French rookie Levy, who practices at European Tour Property Terre Blanche, to lead after an outward 33.
However, the Qualifying School graduate bogeyed the tenth and 12th to fall one behind Els, who was joined by Björn when the 13-time European Tour winner birdied the short 12th.
Björn hooked his drive left into thick rough at the 14th and could only chip out onto the fairway, then sliced his approach a good 40 yards right and double bogeyed to fall two behind, but Els had Levy for company once more when the 22 year old holed a 30 foot birdie putt at the 13th.
Levy dropped shots at the 15th and 17th to see his resilient challenge end, although he was able to console himself with the fact that third place provided a marked improvement on his previous best European Tour finish.
Björn was able to birdie the 16th and 18th, but with Els finding
the green in two at
the par five last, the 44 year old was able to secure his 28th European Tour title and first since claiming his fourth Major at last year’s Open Championship.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Els. “I’ve had a great week in Germany. We’ve got to thank BMW obviously for their 25 years of support, I’ve tried
a long time to try and win this golf tournament.
“Wonderful to have sponsors like that around the world, and especially on The European Tour.
“There's a lot of people that are working behind the scenes; the volunteers, the Golf Club of Eichenried. There's quite a lot of people getting involved in the golf course; we've got to thank all of them; and obviously my play this week has been great. I just felt good this week. I just felt my game was there and lucky enough it was one shot good enough.
“I really had it going and then I made it tough for myself again. Thomas was playing great, he stumbled on 14, I was watching the kid – I played with him yesterday and he looked like he had a great game – but he stumbled as well on the back nine.
“It’s great to get my name on this wonderful trophy. Obviously it gives you a lot of confidence. Wire-to-wire you’ve got the pressure, every night you’ve got to sleep on it, guys are chasing you. So this is quite a week for me.”
Björn, who also finished second on
his last outing in Austria, was pleased to continue the good form that has brought him five top-ten finishes this season.
“I played well, got off to the start I needed today and got right there in front,” he said. “The thing that's been great this week is the driver and let me down on the back nine.
“I fought all the way to the end, and he hit two very classy shots on the last. When you go up against Ernie, you've got to take it 18 holes to the end and I didn't quite do it today. I'm on a good run of form.
“I wanted to try and get myself in the top 20 in The Race to Dubai and top five for The Open, and I'm keeping closer to that and that's my goal over the next couple of weeks. The qualifier takes a lot out of you, and I'm going to Ireland on a golf course I won on
and I'll keep carrying on and fighting hard until I win a golf tournament.”
Noren, home favourite
Martin Kaymer and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger finished tied for fourth on
15 under par.