Jordan Smith Secures Maiden European Tour Title in Germany
JORDAN SMITH crowned his extraordinary maiden season on the European Tour when he defeated defending champion Alex Levy to win the Porsche European Open at Green Eagles Golf Club in Hamburg in a playoff. The Englishman started the final round with a two-shot lead but in a topsy-turvy afternoon, the lead changed hands several times.
Levy led by a single shot as he stood at the 18th tee, but Smith holed a 10-foot birdie putt to get to 13 under and join the Frenchman. At the first extra hole, Levy had a short putt to win but missed, so they headed back to the 18th tee once again.
Smith nearly holed his putt for an eagle and then tapped in to win his first tournament in only his 25th start. It completes an amazing run for Smith - in 2015 he won the EuroPro Tour order of merit and last year won the Road to Oman on the Challenge. He wasted no time securing his card for 2018 with a series of excellent finishes. All that was missing from his CV was a victory, and he has now put that right.
"It's all a bit surreal," Smith said. "Obviously the Challenge Tour last year and the EuroPro the year before that. It's been fun. I had a really good start to the year and the first aim was just to secure my Tour card, which I managed to do. And then the second goal was to win an event, which I've also now managed to do."
Smith extended his advantage to three strokes when he rolled in his six-foot birdie putt at the first to move to 13 under par. But Levy holed his bunker shot at the second to cut Smith's lead back to two shots. And when Smith dropped his first shot of the day, and only his fourth of the week, after sending his approach to the edge of the water hazard at the sixth, Levy cut his lead to a single stroke. A birdie at the eighth took Levy level with Smith and when the Englishman missed a short par putt he suddenly found himself trailing.
They were level again at the 10th after Levy found trouble from the tee and was forced to take a penalty drop, and Smith went back in front with a birdie at the 11th. However, the Englishman left his bunker shot at the 13th well short of the hole and failed to convert his 20-foot par putt.
Levy and Smith both made birdies from inside ten feet at the 15th to get to 12 under before Levy reclaimed the outright lead with another birdie at the 16th. But Smith got up and down from the rough behind the green for a birdie at the last to take it to extra holes.
Smith said: "I've loved it. It's been nerve-wracking at times but I've really enjoyed it. The whole week tee to green is probably the best I have played all year, probably struggled a little bit on the greens, but it came together at the right time.”
Levy was disappointed not to have made a successful defence but said he was happy with the way he had played. “I’m really proud of what I did today," he said. "I shoot three under in the conditions that were really tough and I played really well. I think there are a lot of good things coming for me in the next few months. I hit some pure shots. I struggled a bit today on the putting but I think I played really good golf and I improved my game week after week and that’s really nice.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure. My dream was to win this tournament for my birthday present in two days but I didn’t do that. I’m really pleased with what I did and I’m really happy.”
Diminutive Bangladeshi golfer Siddikur Rahman, who finished tied for third with Johan Edfors, was thrilled with his week's work, especially as he is one of the shortest hitters in the game and the course was playing long - really long. He finished with a 68 for an 11 under par total of 277.
“It was a really great day. I couldn’t expect this today but I am very fortunate my hitting was good, especially my putting – it was really good all four days – so I am really happy with today’s round," Rahman said.
“The second shot unfortunately (on the 18th) went to the left and into the hazard, I talked to myself andsaid no problem as there is still a long way to go, one good shot, maybe one good putt. I was really inspired by the clapping and after that the putt was quite memorable.
“My putting and short game, without out that it’s not possible to play like this.”
Jhonattan Vegas successfully defended his RBC Canadian Open title at Glen Abbey, beating Charley Hoffman with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff. Vegas' approach from the left bunker on the par-five 18th hit the grass bank just above the sand lip but still had the power to clear the water and go through the green.
"When I heard the clip, I knew that it was probably going to go in the water, because I didn't know exactly how hard it hit it," Vegas said. "But then when I saw the ball in the air, it was still going really hard and forward."
The 32-year-old found his ball in the rough at the back of the green but he chipped the ball to a foot and then stood back and watched as Hoffman tried to hole his own bunker shot to extend the playoff. He made a good try but the ball slipped beyond the hole.
Vegas was especially pleased as he has struggled for much of the season, and there were few signs coming into this tournament that he had any chance of keeping his title.
"It's been a special day," Vegas said. "I knew that I had to shoot a good round today to have a chance to win again. I just came out with an aggressive mentality, just feeling really good about my game. When I started making a few birdies, especially the putt for birdie on 7, I started feeling the same chills that I felt last year when I won, and I just knew that something good could happen if I kept that going."
Vegas closed with a seven-under 65 to match Hoffman at 21-under 267. It was all the more remarkable given that the 32-year-old's thoughts have never been fay away from events in his native Venezuela, where people stayed away from the polls in massive numbers yesterday in a show of protest against a vote to grant President Nicolas Maduro's ruling socialist party virtually unlimited powers.
"It's been on my mind. It's always on my mind," Vegas said. "I have family that live there. It's my country of birth. I mean, it hurts seeing the country the way it is; seeing a government that treats people that way when they don't deserve it just to remain in power, and all the suffering that even my family and friends that are having right now, it's just not fair."
Hoffman, the third-round leader, birdied the 18th for a 68 to force the playoff. "I gave myself a chance, except I putted horribly today and left everything short," Hoffman said. "Jhonny played great today. All credit to him."
Hoffman left a 15-foot eagle putt short on the par-five 16th, then had a 10-foot birdie attempt on the par-4 17th and a 20-footer for eagle on the 18th, and was left to rue his missed opportunity. "It's always tough after you don't close the deal after having the lead," Hoffman said. "Seventeen, I hit a great putt. Actually thought I made it," Hoffman said. "That green was a little burned out. Thought I made that putt on 17. Eight-teen, I hit a good putt. Sixteen, is the one I want back, right in the jaw strip. Didn't get there."
Vegas is the first man to successfully defend the Canadian Open since Jim Furyk, who won in 2006 and 2007.
Ian Poulter's renaissance continued with a magnificent final round of 64. It was the best round of the day, and it meant that the Englishman finished third, which will see him continue to climb the world rankings and may be good enough to get him into the all-important top 50.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson finished on 17 under after a 67."The golf game is there," Johnson said. "I'm really hitting it well. Feel like I'm driving it better today a little bit. I hit a lot of really good putts that didn't go in the hole. I had a lot of looks today, and it's definitely positive."
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