David Drysdale started his 18th season on the European Tour by finishing fifth in the Honma Hong Kong Open as Catriona Matthew ended the Ladies European Tour campaign by claiming third spot in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino.
Drysdale signed off with a four-under-par 66 in miserable wet conditions to jump seven spots on the last day at Fanling, finishing with a 10-under 270 total, seven shots behind Aaron Rai as the 23-year-old from Wolverhampton held off compatriot Matthew Fitzpatrick for a maiden success.
It was Drysdale’s best finish since claiming third spot in the Belgian Knockout last May and best effort in a 72-hole stroke play event since finishing joint-fourth behind Jon Rahm in the 2017 Irish Open.
“It is a great start to the 2019 campaign,” admitted the 43-year-old from Cockburnspath. “It was tough today as it rained from start to finish, but I hung in there and played solid, as had pretty much been the case all week.”
Drysdale, who has wife, Vicky, caddying for him again this season, started the final round with a bogey but then birdied the third and fourth to be out in 33. He then began the journey home with three birdies in four holes before closing with five straight pars.
“I played good golf from tee to green and it was nice to see a few putts drop,” he added. “The key for 2019 is working on a positive attitude and staying patient. I am trying not to get frustrated at bad shots, which was the key this week.”
The effort earned Drysdale, who finished 107th in Race to Dubai last season, having been 56th the year before, a cheque for around £66,000.
After starting the final round alongside Drysdale, Bob MacIntyre slipped to joint-57th on his European Tour debut following a 75. The 22-year-old left-hander from Oban was on course for a top-ten finish after picking up two shots in the opening four holes and had gone 46 holes without dropping a shot.
However, five bogeys and a double-bogey in the last 13 holes undid some of his good work earlier in the week, which had included a four-under 66 on Saturday.
“Enjoyed my first event on the European Tour,” wrote MacIntyre, one of four Scottish newcomers on the circuit this season, on Twitter. “Got to take the positives,” he added of that run without a dropped shot.
MacIntyre picked up a cheque for close to £4500, while Grant Forrest earned just over £10,000 as the 25-year-old from North Berwick finished in a share of 36th position following a last-day 69 and a three-under total. David Law and Liam Johnston, the two other new card holders, finished 71st and 72nd respectively.
Rai, who led by six shots at the start of play, saw that reduced to just one by Fitzpatrick, who signed off with a stunning 64, during a thrilling final-round tussle. “It’s incredible,” said the winner, who set up his success with a course-record 61 in the second round. “It definitely hasn’t sunk in just yet. I’ll probably need a few days for that to happen.”
Meanwhile, Matthew saved her best for last in 2018 as the 49-year-old Solheim Cup captain picked up close to £16,000 after making her presence felt on the leaderboard in an event won by Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam at La Quinta.
Matthew, pictured left, had the halfway leader in her sights before dropping three shots in the closing two holes in the third round but recovered to close with a par-breaking 70. With a six-under 278 total, she finished seven shots behind Van Dam as the 23-year-old laid down a marker for next year’s Solheim Cup at Gleneagles by completing a Spanish double after also winning the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open in Sitges two months ago.
“If she plays well next year, she would be a great addition to the team. She does hit the ball miles,” said Matthew of the Arnhem woman.
Elsewhere, Russell Knox and Martin Laird ended up joint-14th behind first-time winners Belgium in the ISPS Handa World Cup after the Scottish pair had to settle for a one-over-par 73 in the closing foursomes at The Metropolitan Club in Melbourne.
As the tartan twosome slipped six spots on the final day, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry held off a late challenge from host country duo Marc Leishman and Cam Smith to win by three shots with a 23-under-par 265 aggregate.
“It’s not something you put on your list when you’re a golfer, but it feels pretty good,” admitted Pieters.