Sergio Garcia wins third straight Andalucia Valderrama Masters title
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 22/10/18 5:08pm
Sergio Garcia held off a late challenge from Shane Lowry to complete a hat-trick of Andalucia Valderrama Masters victories by four shots at the end of a weather-ravaged week in southern Spain.
With the tournament being forced into an extra day and also reduced to 54 holes due to the numerous delays for storms throughout the week, Garcia emerged as the champion for the third time in a row after carding a solid final-round 69 for a winning score of 12 under par.
Garcia, whose charitable foundation hosts the event, was three ahead overnight with 11 holes of his round remaining, but his lead was soon whittled down to just one shot when Lowry made three birdies in a row after the turn.
The home favourite parred his first two holes after the resumption and then holed from 10 feet for birdie at the 10th, while Lowry birdied 10, 11 and 12 to pile the pressure on leader.
Garcia then dropped his first shot of the tournament on the back nine when his second to the 13th clipped some overhanging trees and came up short of the green, from where he was unable to get up and down as he slipped back to 10 under, and just one clear of the charging Lowry.
But the roars of "Vamos" echoed around the course at the 14th when Garcia clipped his approach to six feet and knocked in the putt for a bounce-back birdie, just as Lowry found himself in trouble in the trees up ahead at 15.
The Irishman undid most of his superb earlier work as he ran up a costly double-bogey which effectively ended his chances of a first win in three years as Garcia suddenly enjoyed a four-shot advantage once again.
Lowry did manage to birdie the last for a 66 to earn the clubhouse lead on eight under, but Garcia had plenty in hand and became the first player since Ernie Els in 2004 to win the same European Tour title three times in a row.
The Ryder Cup record-breaker restored his four-stroke cushion when he drained a tricky downhill putt for his third birdie of the day at the long 17th, and he closed with a cast-iron par to win his 34th professional title.
Lee Westwood began the extra day as Garcia's closest challenger, but the English veteran bogeyed 12 and 14 and then double-bogeyed the 16th as he settled for a share of sixth place on four under.
Westwood finished alongside Gonzalo Fernendez-Castano, whose spirited performance saw him move into the top 116 on the Race to Dubai and retain his card for next season, as did Scotland's Richie Ramsay, whose closing 68 lifted him into a tie for 11th and moved him from 124th to 115th in the order of merit.
David Horsey clinched the vital 116th place on the Race to Dubai, while the likes of Matteo Manassero and Marc Warren now face a daunting trip to the Final Stage of Qualifying School next month.