By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Moscow Country Club
England’s Simon P Brown survived a rollercoaster finish to become the fourth rookie to win in 2013 at a rain-soaked Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior).
Despite a closing five holes which featured a double bogey, a bogey and three birdies, the 50 year old completed the first wire-to-wire victory of the season at Moscow Country Club after a closing 70 sealed a 12 under par 204 total and a two-shot cushion over joint runners-up Mike Harwood and Carl Mason (both 68).
Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie (71) was amongst the group one shot further back in a three-way tie for fourth alongside Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin and Denmark’s Steen Tinning (both 72).
With almost constant rain peppering the outskirts of the Russian capital on Sunday, Brown, who led by one overnight, birdied the second before making his first bogey in 39 holes at the difficult third.
Two gains in succession from the sixth extended his advantage before a manic close saw his lead wiped out.
Playing in the third from last group, Australia’s Harwood and Mason of England were on the surge as a gain for the former at the long 17th and a birdie from the bunker for the latter at the last handed the pair a clubhouse total of ten under par.
Almost simultaneously, Brown, who had looked entirely composed all week in his pursuit of a first title since gaining his card at Qualifying School in January, lost his ball with an errant drive at the par four 14th en route to a double bogey. He bounced back immediately with a birdie at the long 15th but when he missed a short par putt at the following hole to slip to ten under for the tournament a play-off with Harwood and Mason looked imminent.
Brown kept his nerve, however, rattling in a 25-foot birdie at the 17th before almost holing a quite magnificent seven iron approach to the par four last for the easiest of tap-ins and a superb maiden victory.
“Funnily enough I was quite calm, despite how the score card must look,” said Brown, whose win propels him from 51st to fifth in the Order of Merit thanks to a winner’s cheque of €97,305.
“I was disappointed to lose a ball at 14 but I told myself just to keep going and hung in there for a strong finish.
“But that shot into 18 was very nice. That took all the pressure off and I was able to enjoy the walk up to the green.”
It has been quite the journey for Brown, who finished tied fourth at the Russian Open here 17 years ago on the Challenge Tour, having spent much of his life as a club professional at Golf Club Rhein-Sieg in Germany, and he heralded Sunday as a “life changing day”.
“It’s been quite a story I suppose,” he continued. “I think I expected a bit too much of myself when I first got on Tour but the last few weeks a change back to my old putter has helped me to play well again.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time as a professional in Germany but this is different – the biggest win of my career by far and a life changing day.”
Brown is the fourth rookie to win on the 2013 Senior Tour in the last five events, following Steen Tinning (Berenberg Masters), Santiago Luna (SSE Scottish Senior Open) and Colin Montgomerie (Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters).
Mason, who has been battling a back injury the last two days, said: “I’m pleased because I’ve played well all week. I finished beautifully but I am in agony. It started yesterday afternoon and has just gotten a bit worse.
“So I’m chuffed to come out with a 68 and a runner-up finish. I’m showing a bit better form of late and you still believe you’ve got the game there to win.”
Harwood, meanwhile, has only recently returned from a debilitating elbow injury that kept him out until Woburn two weeks ago and birdied the first two holes for the third day running for a fast start.
“It’s good to get back in contention,” he said. “But I am quite hard on myself and I had a good few putts from around ten feet that didn’t go in today so it could have been even better.”
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