Sergio Garcia Claims Hard Fought Victory in the Netherlands

By: | Mon 16 Sep 2019 | Comments


IT’S been a while coming, but Sergio Garcia put what has been a troubled year behind him with a dramatic victory at the KLM Open. It comes after a season in which he has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Spaniard had to fight hard for a one-shot victory and land his 16th European Tour title at The International Club.

Garcia had dropped only one shot in his opening 54 holes but endured a mixed front nine where he was leading by two at the fifth, only to be trailing playing partner Callum Shinkwin by one shot at the seventh after successive dropped shots.  However, a double bogey at the 10th by Shinkwin handed Garcia the initiative and the 39-year-old used his experience to hold off the chasing pack by a single stroke with an 18 under par total.

There was, however, a performance to note from Denmark’s Nicolai Højgaard. Making just his seventh European Tour start, the teenager surged into contention and was joint leader with four holes remaining but came up just short in sole second. Keep your eye on this young man though.

Matt Wallace was third at 15 under, while fellow Englishman James Morrison was one shot further back as Garcia became the first Spanish winner of the KLM Open since Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño in 2005.

“It was honestly amazing to have my brother, Angie my wife and little Azalea [Garcia's daughter] here, it's very special,” Garcia said. “Amazing. We had a great week and great to win again. I played well all week under pressure. It wasn't easy, there were a couple of tough moments today but I hung on tough, that's the most important thing. “I want to thank all my sponsors for their support and everything they do for me and the year just got a little bit better.”

Højgaard showed no signs of nerves with a cool birdie at the first to reduce the deficit behind overnight leaders Garcia and Shinkwin to one shot. The final pair hit produced great approaches into the first to double their advantage and move to 16 under for the tournament.

Shinkwin took the lead at 16 under when his Spanish playing partner carded his first bogey in 31 holes at the second. Garcia birdied the third hole to become joint leader after Shinkwin three putted from the greenside rough but when he picked up shots at the fourth and fifth, he was two clear at 18 under.

There was a two-shot swing at the sixth when Garcia made an uncharacteristic mistake with an iron into the green to make his second bogey, which Shinkwin capitalised on with a birdie to move alongside the Spaniard at 17 under. Højgaard recorded his first bogey at the seventh to sit three behind the leaders alongside Wallace, who had birdied the first, third and fifth.

When Garcia three-putted the seventh, Shinkwin led by one shot. The Englishman made a fine par save after finding rough with his second at the eighth to maintain his one-shot lead, but that changed at the 10th. Shinkwin found the rough and could only get on the par four green in four, but he slid his bogey putt by the hole and Garcia tapped in for a par to take the lead at 16 under.

Højgaard birdied the 11th to join Shinkwin at 15 under and Wallace was alongside them soon after with a birdie at the 12th. Garcia and Shinkwin found the driveable par four 11th in one, but only the Spaniard made further progress as he tapped in for birdie to get up to 17 under. Højgaard holed a lovely left-to-right putt for another birdie at the 13th and when the 18-year-old drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the next, he was joint leader with Garcia.

Wallace led the chasing pack with a 15-foot birdie putt to get to 16 under to set up a dramatic finale down the last four holes.

Garcia then struck a glorious approach to two feet at the 15th for his sixth birdie of the day to move ahead at 18 under. Meanwhile, Højgaard and Wallace bogeyed the 16th and 17th respectively to give Garcia a two-shot cushion, and he sealed victory with another stunning approach at the 16th. It gave him a three-shot lead, but a poor tee shot at the 17th dropped Garcia back to 18 under just as Højgaard reached the par five 18th in two.

The 18-year-old slid his eagle putt by to finish at 17 under before Garcia recorded the par he needed to win. Shinkwin was fifth at 13 under, while Swede Rikard Karlberg was one shot further back. Fellow Swede Joakim Lagergren, Chilean Hugo Leon and Dutchman Wil Besseling finished at 11 under.

Home favourite and two-time winner Joost Luiten carded a ten under par total in a tie for 10th, alongside Belgian Thomas Pieters, Wales' Bradley Dredge, Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and England's Matthew Southgate.

PGA TOUR

Joaquin Niemann - make a note of the name. At just 20 years of age he went into the final round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier with a two-shot lead. And he had a long morning to think about it everything that could go wrong as he went in search of his first victory on the PGA Tour. He handled it all like a seasoned veteran, shooting a final round of 64 that took him to 21 under par and gave him a six-shot victory - the largest margin of victory in the history of the tournament.

“I just couldn't think about this moment, like holding the trophy,” he said. “I was like, man, take it easy. We got 18 holes to play. Don't think about that yet. Just go out there and have fun. I just couldn't think about that moment in the entire day, so I was just trying to think about anything else. My caddie is very funny, so he was just talking to me and make me laugh to just try to forget about that. Then the last couple holes I was feeling great. I was really enjoying.”

With the victory, Neimann joined some elite company. The late Seve Ballesteros of Spain and Rory McIlroy are the only other international players to win on TOUR before the age of 21 – although the Northern Irishman only made it by two days. Neimann, for his part, turns 21 in November.

The victory in the PGA Tour season-opener did more than put Niemann, from Chile, at the top of the FedExCup points list and established himself as one of the prime candidates for one of Ernie Els’ picks for the International Team for The Presidents Cup. “What a fantastic win for Joaquin at The Greenbrier,” Els told PGA TOUR officials in a text message. “I’m really proud of him, and it’s a wonderful start to his season. I’m looking forward to more of his great play.”

Niemann already has his sights focused on playing for Els at Royal Melbourne in December, calling it a “dream”. “I know that there is a lot of good players fighting for the first spots,” Niemann said. “I know it's going to be tough, and this win definitely helps to get a little -- probably a little help to get in the first spots. But I don't know yet. Just got to be patient and get a couple more tournaments to have good golf and hopefully get in that team.”

Niemann was the world’s No. 1 amateur in 2017 when he received his first sponsor’s exemption at Greenbrier and tied for 29th. A year later he tied for fifth. In both those tournaments, Niemann closed with a 64, just as he did to win.

Neimann started Sunday’s final round in sole possession of the lead and was briefly tied twice. But he pulled away with a back-nine 31 that included birdies on the final three holes.

“Normally, I’m not really like too excited any time,” said Niemann, who completed the win with a 21-footer for birdie at the 18th hole. “I normally like never do fist-pump and kind of those things. The emotions in that moment on the last couple holes was just crazy. I was just thinking on the first win I made when I was a kid and I was dreaming on this moment. I couldn’t resist it.”


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