ERNIE Els of South Africa won the BMW International Open in Munich by one shot yesterday to claim his 28th European Tour title.
After sharing a three-way lead overnight, Els shot a third straight three-under-par 69 in the final round to finish 18-under 270 on the Eichenried Golf Club course in Munich and secure a welcome morale boost ahead of The Open at Muirfield next month.
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark (69) was second at 17 under and Frenchman Alexander Levy (71) finished another stroke off the pace in third for his best finish.
Els, a two-times winner at both the US Open and Open, led after the first and second rounds.
“To keep the lead all the way through is quite a lot of pressure so it’s been a good week,” said Els, the first South African and also the oldest player to win the BMW International Open in the competition’s 25th staging.
“I’m a very young 43-year-old. There’s not a younger 43-year-old, I promise,” he joked.
Els, who tied for fourth at the US Open last weekend, added: “Obviously my play this week has been great, as we talked about how much tougher the course is, but I just felt good this week. I just felt my game was there and, lucky enough, it was one shot good enough.
“As always, when you get to my age, to get a win, it’s a wonderful feeling, and hopefully it gives me the confidence that I need as there are two more Majors left [this year], and I’ve played quite well the last two but I need a bit of a spark in the next two. Hopefully this will help; it definitely will, especially the way the week went.”
Els had started the final round level with Levy and Sweden’s Alex Noren, but the Swede had two bogeys before falling out of contention while Els, Levy and Bjorn each made three birdies from their nine holes out. Bjorn was tied for the lead with Els when a double bogey on the 14th hole, coming after a bogey on the 11th, effectively ended the Dane’s chances despite six birdies and a strong finish. Bjorn said: “I fought all the way to the end. When you go up against Ernie, you’ve got to take it 18 holes to the end and I didn’t quite do it today.”
The 42-year-old Bjorn also finished runner-up at the Lyoness Open in Austria two weeks ago.
“I’ll keep carrying on and fighting hard until I win a golf tournament,” Bjorn added.
Els had also stumbled with a bogey on the 11th.
“I just tried to stay steady. I hit the ball on the greens and tried to two-putt and that’s kind of what I did,” Els said.
In contrast to his more experienced counterparts, 22-year-old Levy is a novice, having made just 13 European Tour starts prior to this week.
But the young Frenchman belied his tender years with a superb start, notching three birdies on the front nine at the fifth, sixth, and eighth holes.
However, Levy, who earned his card at last year’s European Tour Qualifying School Final, made a few too many mistakes coming in – four of them to be exact – before a late rally saw him register a third-place finish, the best finish of his fledgling European Tour career.
Unfortunately for the locals, the German challenge from playing partners Martin Kaymer and Marcel Siem never quite materialised, although they still managed to give the largest following of the week plenty to cheer.
Kaymer, the 2008 champion, got off to a slow start with a bogey at the third, but six birdies, including one at the last, added up to a closing 69 and a tie for fourth on 14 under par alongside Noren and Bernd Wiesberger. Siem finished two shots worse off after a closing round of 71, his poorest of the week.
Defending champion Danny Willett of England (72) ended his defence in spectacular style with an eagle for a share of 18th.
Meanwhile, the Scottish challenge failed to happen. Fifer Callum Macaulay was the best placed, carding a 69 yesterday to finish ten shots adrift of Els.
Scott Jamieson was four shots further back after a 72. David Drysdale (73) and Chris Doak (72) – fresh from appearing at last week’s US Open at Merion near Pennsylvania – were 15 shots behind the winner on 285.
Gary Orr shot a final round 73 for a 287 total and Marc Warren finished in joint last place after a round of 75 for 291.