ENGLAND’S James Morrison carded a flawless final round of 69 to claim his second European Tour title in the Open de Espana yesterday.
Morrison recorded three birdies and 15 pars to finish ten under par at El Prat, four shots clear of defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, David Howell, Edouard Espana and Francesco Molinari.
The 30-year-old, who played cricket in the same England youth teams as Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Tim Bresnan, began the day tied for the lead at the Barcelona venue with Howell and moved clear with a birdie on the fifth, where he chipped in from the back of the green.
With Howell dropping a shot on the sixth after finding a bunker off the tee, Morrison briefly enjoyed a two-shot lead before Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo birdied the par-five seventh and holed from long range for another on the eighth to draw level.
However, Grillo was unable to save par from a greenside bunker on the ninth and Morrison holed from ten feet for birdie on the same hole minutes later to restore his two-shot lead.
Grillo dropped shots on the 13th and 17th and it was left to Molinari to keep up the pressure with birdies on the 12th and 13th, only for the former Ryder Cup player to bogey the 16th and 17th.
That left Morrison with the comfort of a three-shot lead playing the 18th and he finished in style by getting up and down from over the green for a closing birdie.
Morrison, whose previous win in Madeira came in 2010, the same year he lost a play-off for the Spanish Open, said: “It feels amazing. It’s been five years and I had a lot of chances in between. Today I just drew on my experience and got over the line.
“My game plan was to stick to my process. I know it’s really a cliché but it’s true.
“All my coaches have been really big on sticking to my process, just dealing with what comes in front of me.
“In years past when I haven’t done it, it’s been too much looking at leaderboards and outside influences.
“Today, I stuck to my process all day long and executed it. I ground out every single shot and I tried my hardest. The only time I looked at the leaderboard was on 17. I knew I had a three-shot lead but I was desperate to make a birdie on the last and I did it.
“Winning the Open de Espana means a lot to me. Every year we come and play here and it’s always one of the best weeks of the year.
“It’s always on a great golf course, great crowds. I lost it once in a play-off and now I’ve won it, it will be dear to my heart now forever.”
Asked how he would celebrate, Morrison added: “I’ve actually been off the booze this week for the first time in I don’t know how long. It has been very hard but again it was part of the plan. It’s such a big week next week [the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth], and a home week as I only live 20 minutes away, so I’m just going to keep going and try to ride the crest of the wave.”
All three Scots to make the cut will head into the European Tour’s flagship event on the back of par-breaking final rounds in Spain. A closing 67 lifted Richie Ramsay into a tie for 15th while Scott Jamieson catapulted himself up 39 spots into joint-31st after a 64 – the best score of the week. Jamieson had eight birdies in a flawless effort, which was in contrast to the 78 on Saturday that contained four double-bogeys. Paul Lawrie, the only other Scot to survive the cut, finished with a 70 to sit in a share of 49th.
Meanwhile, Wu Ashun has made golfing history for the second time in the space of three weeks by being named the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Month for April.
It is the first time a golfer from China has been accorded the prestigious accolade and is just reward for the 29-year-old’s stunning win in the Volvo China Open at the Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club, which was the first time a Chinese golfer had triumphed in a European Tour event on home soil.
“To win a European Tour event on home soil was the highlight of my career to date but being named as Golfer of the Month has made it extra special.,” said Wu. “I hope my win can encourage more Chinese children to take up this great game and hopefully go on to become champions themselves.”