Nerveless Cévaër ends barren spell
Frenchman secures par on toughest hole in Europe for first victory in five years
Although this brute of a course suggested this would be a day for the bombers it was an arch plotter who stole off with the £300,000 first prize. Christian Cévaër is known as one of the shortest hitters on the circuit, but also as one of the gutsiest competitors and it was this quality which saw him win the European Open.
It was anything but a pretty climax as players tumbled from contention on a lay-out bathed in sunshine but rendered oh so challenging by capricious gusts. Rory McIlroy was blown away with a 75, while Cévaër's fellow overnight leader, Jeev Milkha Singh, fared even worse with a 76. The fact that the Frenchman could prevail with a 73 and just one birdie on his card proves how difficult the experience was.
No hole was more arduous than the 18th, which now boasts the label of "toughest hole in Europe". Alvaro Quiros (left) came to the last tied with Cévaër on seven-under but his drive hit a spectator and then so too did his second, and the incidents plainly unnerved the Spaniard, not to mention the gallery. His bogey five left Cévaër needing a par for the triumph, a decidedly testing assignment which Cévaër achieved with aplomb.
"I decided whatever happened today I'd make the most of everything," said the 39-year-old, who had not won in five years. "I did that and this feels so good."
His joy was in direct contrast to the majority on the leaderboard who walked away last night believing they had let slip a golden chance, not least England's Steve Webster and Scotland's Gary Orr who both finished alongside Quiros in second. In truth, with none of the top 10 after the third round breaking 71, anyone in the top 20 at the start of the day had a live opportunity. As highlighted by Stephen Dodd.
The Welshman is not demonstrative by nature – indeed, the joke in the locker room is that Dodd was kicked out of the Trappist monks for being uncommunicative – but even he would have fallen off his sofa and let out a huge "You What?" if told on Friday evening he was going to finish fifth two days later. At that stage, the 2006 champion was home in Cardiff having driven the 180 miles from Kent straight after his second round certain he had missed the cut at one-over. But the wind got up and the phone rang and Dodd was told to re-cross the Severn Bridge. A 70 and a 68 later he had won nigh on £64,000. "Bizarre," said Dodd. That just about summed it up.
It was a frantic finale, although it was always destined to struggle to live up to the quality and drama of the previous Sunday when Paul Casey inched out Ross Fisher. However, the 30,000-strong crowd here yesterday certainly received their money's worth (those that paid, that is, and did not take advantage of a commendable free ticketing scheme).
These have been two wonderfully-supported events, boasting an attendance of almost 175,000 and proving that there is a genuine thirst for big-time golf in England. What a shame, therefore, that next year it is very likely just one tournament will see the top professionals walk upon England's fairways green. With the European Open moving to Turnberry, the BMW PGA Championship will probably be it in 2010. And even that prestigious event could have been moved elsewhere unless Wentworth had agreed to do something about the much-maligned greens on the West Course. They are in the process of being dug up and relaid.
That has persuaded Padraig Harrington to return to the tournament he missed this year and last and now Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter will be worked on to play. BMW are known to be furious that three of Europe's biggest names stayed away and Retief Goosen is another who has been vocal in his disgust. The South African has a dreadful Wentworth record but believes it to be his duty to support his Tour's flagship event. Indeed, there is a groundswell of opinion that it should be compulsory for Tour members to play in the PGA and although it has yet to be discussed formally at board level, that is surely only a matter of time.
Colin Montgomerie would doubtless be a supporter of any such motion – but maybe yesterday wasn't the time to ask. A 75 left him in a tie for 55th and the mood was understandably far from optimistic. In fact, the 45-year-old feels so down with his game at the moment he will ask the organisers not to pair him with Corey Pavin in the first two rounds of the Wales Open, which begins at Celtic Manor on Thursday. The Europe Ryder Cup captain realises all eyes will be on him and his counterpart as they play at the venue of next year's match. "I could do without the attention," he said.
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