Adopted Scotsman Levet overcomes 'spiders' to claim title and Open spot

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It can take some ingenuity on occasions, but the Scots will stop at nothing to find a home link with the winners of their tournaments. There was not a local in sight when the Barclays Scottish Open reached its conclusion yesterday afternoon, but in order to put the bonnie into the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, New Zealand's Michael Campbell found the memory of his great-great-grandfather, Edinburgh's Sir Logan Campbell, briefly invoked. And when that did not look like doing the trick, the auld alliance, Mary, Queen of Scots, and all that, was invoked on behalf of France's Thomas Levet.

With a brilliant stretch of golf on the back nine which would have taken even Sir Logan's breath away, Levet came home in 29 strokes to claim the title. He became the third French winner in the last month, an unprecedented achievement for Gallic golf.

What could be better than joining a roll of honour at Loch Lomond that includes Ernie Els, Tom Lehman, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, and collecting £366,660? A place in the Open Championship at Royal Troon this week was the mighty bonus.

"This is probably the best thing," Levet said. "A win is a win but playing in the Open is something else." At Muirfield two years ago he came within a whisker of winning the Open. He survived a four-way, four-hole play-off before losing to Els at the fifth extra hole. The joyful Frenchman raised Els in the air when the South African holed the winning putt.

It was Levetation again yesterday, this time on the leaderboard as the 35-year-old rallied from seven behind the overnight leaders. Marcus Fraser and Grégory Havret were also both chasing the last spot in the Open but neither was able to break par in the final round.

"Life is strange but golf is worse," Levet said. "I was playing so awful before this week, I had spiders and ghosts in my mind. It's unbelievable." Levet withdrew from the Open qualifier at Sunningdale after one round because he was literally shaking with fatigue. Now he has a few headaches but is happy to have them. "I have to go home," he said. "This is my last shirt. We were going to go on holiday. I need to find a hotel for Troon. I don't know what I am doing."

It was the run of three birdies and an eagle from the 11th which put Levet right in contention. At the par-five 13th he hit a three-wood to 10 feet and at the next he played a superb chip. He would single-putt the last eight greens as he saved par on each of the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

Though playing ahead of the other contenders, Levet knew exactly what he needed to do at the last. "I was not afraid to go for broke," he said. "I knew I didn't need a par, I didn't need a bogey, I needed a birdie or nothing."

Hitting a driver off the tee instead of the safe play with a three-wood, he had 151 yards left for his second shot and hit an eight-iron to two-and-a-half feet. "The drive was my best of the week and on the second shot I said to myself to go straight for it, forget everything, wind, distance, doesn't matter, just hit the shot."

Levet holed the putt, despite backing off due to the reversing alarm of a buggy, for a closing birdie and a round of 63. Now 15-under-par was the target but Els, the defending champion, could get no closer than 13 under where he tied with England's David Howell for third place.

Campbell birdied the 12th and the par-five 13th holes to go in front briefly, but then bogeyed the next two as Levet did his thing at the 18th. A three at the 16th got the Kiwi to within one of the Frenchman and Campbell gave himself a 15-footer to tie at the last but missed it on the left. Fraser could have tied by holing his second at the last but finished with a bogey.

A final round of 65 by Lee Westwood was the perfect launching pad for next week. "It's a different kind of golf but it is good to be going to Troon with confidence," said Europe's former No 1.

Westwood was 10th at Troon in 1997 and is buoyed by winning the Dunhill Links last October when he only dropped one shot all week at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. "This is probably the best I've played going into a major for four years but I'm going to keep it low key for the next few days."

Colin Montgomerie, despite a poor round on Saturday, was also pleased to be heading to his home course after a closing 67. "Everything is positive right now," said the Scot. "It's certainly the most relaxed I've been going to an Open at Troon." Not difficult: in 1997 he was a bit of a gibbering wreck as the local favourite and Europe's No 1 at the club where his father was secretary.

A total of £42,000 was handed over to Sport Relief by Red Bull after a competition using the best scores on the final five holes each day at three tournaments of which this was the third and final.

Comments