Christiaan Bezuidenhout completes six-shot victory at Valderrama
South African holds his nerve to see off Jon Rahm and a strong home challenge to lift his maiden European Tour win.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 30/06/19 9:27pm
Christiaan Bezuidenhout overcame a nervy spell on the front nine to claim his maiden European Tour title with a six-shot win at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters.
Bezuidenhout began the final day at Valderrama with a five-stroke lead over home favourite Jon Rahm and defied the pressure to make a birdie-birdie start, but his advantage was soon whittled down to three when he dropped four shots over the next five holes.
However, the 25-year-old regrouped and reeled off three birdies in a row around the turn while Rahm faltered early on the back nine, and Bezuidenhout went on to complete a composed level-par 71 to secure an impressive victory as well as a place in The 148th Open.
The South African, who enjoyed a podium finish at last week's BMW International Open, matched Rahm's birdie at the first and added another at the second as his playing partner bogeyed, although Bezuidenhout erred at the next and the Spaniard's birdie at the fourth trimmed the lead back to five.
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Both bogeyed the fifth before Bezuidenhout got into further trouble at six and seven to open the door for the world No 11, and the pair traded birdies at the ninth to leave Bezuidenhout three clear heading into the home stretch.
The world No 273 then started the back nine in the same way he began the front, while Rahm could not save par at the 10th and then effectively took himself out of contention with a double-bogey shortly before his veteran compatriot, Alvaro Quiros, set the clubhouse target at four under.
Quiros launched himself 28 places up the leaderboard when he made his eighth birdie of the day at the 17th to get to six under for the round, but he closed out his 66 with a disappointing bogey which would ultimately cost him a place in the field for the final major of the year at Royal Portrush.
Bezuidenhout's only blemish over the final seven holes was a bogey at the 15th, and he did well to avoid dropping another at the last when he holed from 10 feet to wrap up victory on 10 under par, with Quiros having to settle for a share of second with Rahm (72), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (68), Adri Arnaus (69) and Eduardo De La Riva (69).
With Bezuidenhout grabbing the first of the three Open places on offer for those finishing in the top 10 and not already exempt, the other two places in the field at Portrush went to Lorenzo-Vera and Arnaus by virtue of their higher world rankings over Quiros and De La Riva.
Lorenzo-Vera was one of only three players to return a bogey-free card in the final round, the Frenchman making three birdies over the first six holes and then parring home to stay at four under, earning his second appearance in The Open and just his fourth in any major.
Arnaus will make his Open debut having enjoyed a spirited back-nine with four birdies in five holes before a bogey at the last cost him outright second, while De La Riva mixed two birdies with 16 pars in a rock-solid 69.
Tournament host Sergio Garcia, who completed a hat-trick of wins at Valderrama last season, was seven shots shy of making it four in a row as he fired a quiet two-birdie to finish alone in seventh place.
And last year's victorious Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn, recorded his first top 10 finish since 2015 with a closing 71 claiming a share of eighth place.