'Ultra-special' Lewis sweeps to maiden professional title

 

Tom Lewis always maintained it was his intention "to do a Rory", but in winning the Portugal Masters in stunning fashion yesterday, the young Englishman "eclipsed" anything Master McIlroy managed.

In just his third event as a pro, the 20-year-old won more than £375,000 and so earned his European Tour card for the next two seasons. In July, Lewis shot a 65 at the Open, the lowest score ever by an amateur in the British major. Three months on, and just a month after joining the paid ranks, the boy from Welwyn Garden City – the same town as a certain Sir Nick Faldo – provided emphatic proof those heroics were anything but a fluke.

Lewis, who also gains entry into the WGC event in Shanghai next month, conjured a brilliant, bogeyless final-round 65 to turn a four-shot deficit into a two-shot win over Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Showing composure and courage way beyond his years, and guided masterfully by the major-winning caddie Colin Byrne, Lewis birdied five of six holes from the 12th to leave the experienced Tour campaigners flailing in his wake at Vilamoura.

As he signed for a 21-under total, the onlookers were in no doubt of the quality of this maiden victory. "This is one the greatest performances in the history of the European Tour," said Mark Roe, the former Tour winner who is now coach to many of the game's top players. "I thought what Rory [McIlroy] did when coming third at the Dunhill in his second event as a pro to earn his card was special – but this is ultra-special. Tom has eclipsed Rory's achievement."

For his part, Lewis took it all in his stride. As a dyslexic who took little interest in school, he admitted to putting all his eggs in the golfing basket. He felt no need to have a safety net, and so soon his conviction has proven justified.

"I wouldn't have expected to win so quickly when I turned pro," said Lewis, who was part of last month's winning Walker Cup team. "To tell you the truth, I was dreading going to Tour school at the end of the year. I played really well this week. I told Colin [Byrne], my caddie, I just wanted to shoot in the sixties.

"I didn't expect to fire a 65. I actually left a number of shots out there this week."

Lewis, who was actually 21-under for his final 52 holes, will inevitably watch the riches roll in. The Independent understands that with his sponsorship bonuses this success will be worth more than £1m. Typical of this confident but level-headed young man, Lewis will not be spending his newly found wealth on flash cars.

"My Mum and Dad built up a debt in helping fund my amateur career so I will sort them out first," said this son of a driving-range professional.

And then? After yesterday the possibilities know no bounds. "I haven't thought what happens next," said Lewis. "Obviously, the schedule changes. It's a great feeling but I've still got a long way to go."

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