Boonchu Ruangkit closed with a stunning seven under par final round 64 to capture his fourth victory of 2010 in the Benahavis Senior Masters and place one hand on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit crown.
The Thai, who began the day with a one stroke lead over Jerry Bruner, finished an impressive seven shots clear of defending champion Carl Mason and another Englishman, John Gould, after carding a remarkable ten birdies.
Gould had led briefly following a flawless front nine when Ruangkit , who opened with three birdies in four holes, dropped consecutive shots on the seventh and eighth holes.
Ruangkit’s lapse proved to be short lived however, as the 54 year old hit back with a sublime run of four consecutive birdies from the ninth hole to pull clear again.
When he then bogeyed the 13th hole, Ruangkit put his foot down again, posting another hat-trick of birdies from the 15th, while Gould faltered on the back nine, dropping four shots in seven holes, to give the Order of Merit leader a comfortable win in the end.
Ruangkit finished the tournament at La Quinta Golf and Country Club in Spain, on 16 under par 197 to capture the first victory on European soil of his career and add to the three titles he won at the start of the season in Brunei, Thailand and South Africa.
“This was my first win in Europe so it is different from the other three and is very special,” he said. “I didn’t start well on the first day here and after that Costantino Rocca and Carl Mason gave me some putting help, reminding me to keep my head still, and after that it changed and I scored well.
“I did everything well today – driving, irons and putting. I three putted three holes for bogeys when I was tired but then I kept thinking about what Carl and Costantino said.
“When John pulled level on the ninth I knew there was another nine holes left and I tried to get my putting back and I realised then I could do it. I’m very proud and happy to win another title.”
Ruangkit’s final two rounds of 65 and 64 equalled the lowest 36 hole closing total of the season, which he set in the Chang Thailand Senior Masters presented by ISPS. His final round also equalled the lowest final 18 hole total of the season by a winner, which he also set in his native Thailand.
It all meant he became the first Senior Tour rookie to win four times in a season since Mason achieved the same feat in his debut campaign in 2003.
The Englishman went on to top the Order of Merit that season and after Ruangkit extended his lead over second placed Chris Williams to €45,259 courtesy of the €27,000 winner’s cheque, he looks set to follow suit with just two events remaining.
“I’ve been struggling with a neck injury so I’ve withdrawn from Sicily next week which gives me just the Senior Tour Championship left but I’m in a strong position,” he said. “I did not think about winning this week but the weather was similar to Thailand which helped me. I don’t play well in the rain and cold!”
Senior Tour rookie Gould improved his chances of retaining his playing rights for next season by holing a magnificent 35ft birdie on the last hole to tie with Mason in second place on nine under par following a round of 69.
Gould moves up to 44th place in the Order of Merit after his second consecutive top ten finish and admitted his final putt could be crucial.
“It was great to see that drop and hopefully it will help secure my card for next year,” he said. “Boonchu was unbelievable today though and fully deserved the victory.”
Mason, meanwhile, will have to wait for another opportunity to become the outright leading Senior Tour tournament winner after missing out on a record breaking 24th title.
The three-time Order of Merit winner posted three birdies in his flawless round of 68 and moves to fifth in the Order of Merit. Juan Quiros was the leading Spanish player in fourth place on seven under par.