Danny Willett grabs his first Tour victory after fourth extra hole in Cologne
Danny Willett, the son of a vicar, finally had his prayers answered yesterday – after going through agonies.
The 24-year-old from Sheffield beat Australian Marcus Fraser for his first European Tour victory at the BMW International Open in wet and windy Cologne.
Willett, a team-mate of Rory McIlroy in the 2007 Walker Cup, feared it was going to be his 20th top-ten finish without victory when he threw away a three-stroke lead. But the former world No 1 in the amateur ranks was given a reprieve when Fraser bogeyed the 456-yard final hole.
That meant a tie on the 11-under-par mark of 277 after Willett’s superb three-iron escape from close to the trees, and the pair had to play the 18th four more times to settle the issue.
First they parred it with Fraser holing from 12 feet, then they bogeyed it with Willett missing from four feet, then they parred it again.
Fraser, twice a winner on the circuit, was favourite to land the first prize of nearly £270,000 when he was 30 feet away in two and the Yorkshireman went over the green.
However, Willett almost chipped in, then saw Fraser lip out and miss his four-footer coming back.
“Amazing. It was a tough day,” said the world No 204, who today will be at Sunningdale trying to qualify for the Open Championship, as will Fraser.
“I’ve had some ups and downs in the last 18 months, but I’m injury-free now and I want to thank everybody for the support they’ve given me.”
One in front overnight, Willett birdied the third and fourth, but the script began to change when he three-putted the ninth. Further dropped strokes came at the 11th and 15th, the pressure mounting after he had three-putted again for par at the long 13th.
With the weather at its worst, though, he managed to par the final three, whereas Fraser was in rough after his first and second shots down the last.
They were round in 71 and 73 respectively, but their work was far from over in a tournament which last year saw a five-hole play-off before Pablo Larrazabal beat fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia. Joint-third only one behind were Ireland’s 45-year-old Paul McGinley after a best-of-the-day 66, Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (69) and England’s Chris Wood, who bogeyed the short 17th when sharing the lead. For McGinley it was a third top-seven finish in his last four starts, but he was left to rue his Saturday 77 after being joint second at halfway.
“Obviously, there’s a gaping thing in the week and I’ve got to give some thought to why I lost my speed on the greens and my confidence,” said the Dubliner. “I had five three-putts – I don’t think I’ve ever had that in my life – but it was a good reaction and I’m really looking forward to this week’s Irish Open. Royal Portrush is one of my favourite courses in the world and I’ve played it a lot over the years.”
Fernandez-Castano is now back in the last automatic qualifying place for the Ryder Cup, edging Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts down to 11th spot thanks to a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
Scot Paul Lawrie, third in the cup standings, finished joint 23rd along with 54-year-old Bernhard Langer, whose compatriot Marcel Siem would have been in the play-off if he had made a closing 22-footer. Instead he three-putted it and slipped to joint sixth with Swede Henrik Stenson.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North