Andrew Johnston holds off late Sergio Garcia charge to win Spanish Open

Englishman Andrew Johnston carded a final-round 70 at Valderrama yesterday, with a 20-foot putt on the 16th hole proving decisive. Picture: Getty Images
Englishman Andrew Johnston carded a final-round 70 at Valderrama yesterday, with a 20-foot putt on the 16th hole proving decisive. Picture: Getty Images
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Andrew Johnston held off a final-day charge from tournament host Sergio Garcia to win his first European Tour title in the Spanish Open.

The Englishman carded a final round of 70 at Valderrama to finish one over par and a shot ahead of the Netherlands’ Joost Luiten, with 
Garcia another stroke back following a closing 67.

That was the lowest score of the day as the world No 16 took advantage of the calm and overcast conditions, but the 36-year-old was left to rue missing from ten feet for an eagle on the 17th and a bogey on the last.

“It’s a dream come true, really,” said Johnston, 27, who became the first winner of a regular European Tour event with an over-par total since Ian Woosnam in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie in 1996.

“You always try to picture yourself coming down the last trying to hole that winning putt. It’s pretty surreal.

“I came off the course and I just started crying with the emotion of it. I don’t think it will hit me for a few days.”

Johnston, who won the Challenge Tour in 2014 and finished 70th on the Race to Dubai last season, added: “The last few years have been crazy, just seeing that steady improvement which is really positive. Hopefully that keeps going in the right way.

“I had a good year last year which gave me confidence. The goal this year was to get a win and I can’t believe it has happened this quick.

“It is what you dream of, to have your name on a trophy alongside so many special names like Seve [Ballesteros], [Nick] Faldo and [Bernhard] Langer. You see them winning these tournaments so to put mine on there feels pretty ridiculous really. It really does.

“Hopefully I can be one of those guys who has an incredible career like that and people are sitting here in the future going, ‘Oh Beef’s on there. It’s pretty incredible’.”

With overnight leader Michael Lorenzo-Vera quickly dropping down the leaderboard with three bogeys in the first four holes, two-time major winner Martin Kaymer briefly enjoyed a two-shot lead when he holed from five feet for a birdie on the third.

However, playing partner Luiten then birdied the fourth and fifth to get on level terms before Kaymer bogeyed the seventh after a wild drive meant he had to chip out 
sideways from the trees.

Johnston had dropped a shot on the first, but picked up shots on the seventh and eighth to join Luiten at the top of the leaderboard, before Luiten bogeyed the par-five 11th.

A three-putt bogey on the 14th cost Johnston the outright lead, but he responded superbly with a birdie from 20 feet on the 16th which ultimately proved decisive as Luiten was unable to find a birdie on the closing stretch.

Garcia had raced to the turn in 32 and also birdied the 12th, but his hopes seemed to have disappeared when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker to bogey the 15th and fall three shots behind with three to play. However, with his friend and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale looking on, Garcia holed from 30 feet for birdie on the 16th and picked up another shot on the 17th, only to bogey the last after getting a flyer from the rough and seeing his approach sail over the green.

“It was just one of those things that I got a flyer on the last,” Garcia said. “I thought it was going to fly, but not that much. I hit it 195 yards with an eight iron and that unfortunately left me in a tough spot.

“But the week has been 
great, very successful with my foundation and everything.”