Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tommy top at Gleneagles

Tommy Fleetwood claimed his maiden European Tour title in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, prevailing in a play-off with home favourite Stephen Gallacher and Ricardo Gonzalez on an action packed final day in Scotland. The 18th hole at Gleneagles, which could be the decisive setting at next year’s Ryder Cup, provided plenty of drama, with Gallacher holing a 15ft eagle putt in regulation play to finish on 18 under par, moments after compatriot Scott Henry had done the same in front of the packed home galleries to set the previous clubhouse target of 17 under par. Gallacher, who had made a remarkable recovery from a treble bogey seven on the 11th hole, then watched as joint overnight leaders Fleetwood and Gonzalez both birdied the closing hole to match his total and take the tournament into a play-off for the fourth time in its 15 year history. It was 22 year old Fleetwood who managed to make birdie again at the first extra hole, two putting from the back edge of the green after Gallacher failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker and Argentine Gonzalez three-putted from over the back of the green. For Fleetwood, the transition was complete from the youngest winner of the European Challenge Tour Rankings in 2011 to European Tour champion two years later.  “It is unbelievable,” he said. “I've been out here on Tour a while and I haven't even had a top five the last two years. And then all of a sudden you come out with a win. “I don't know how it happened, but it just seemed to come a bit easier this week. I was nervous as hell on the first green today, and after that, I felt pretty calm and I felt fine within myself. It was so tight, you couldn't really do much. It was a bit claustrophobic on the leaderboard. “To win is just absolutely amazing. You look at all the winners on Tour, and I'll admit, I'm so jealous when somebody wins, but finally it's my turn.” Fleetwood had gone into the final round leading a European Tour event for the first time and he made a steady if unspectacular start, birdieing the second hole before a run of seven straight pars. He then bogeyed the tenth and 15th holes to slip back, before a superb eagle on the 16th hole propelled him right back into contention. With Gallacher leading in the clubhouse after a superb 67, Fleetwood produced only the second birdie of his round to sign for a two under par 70, the same as Gonzelez, before prevailing in the play-off to collect the €272,272 first prize, with his parents and, heart-warmingly, the family dog Maisy on hand to celebrate. “She (Maisy) comes to every event in Scotland, because dogs can do what they want in Scotland, can't they?” he said. “She came to any amateur event I've played in Scotland and at county level. She was always the one supporting.” It is only 13 months until Gleneagles hosts The 2014 Ryder Cup, and Fleetwood’s performance outlined his potential, with European Captain among the interested observers in Perth. “I wish the points started a week earlier, but there are a lot of players that are a long way ahead of me in the running for a Ryder Cup spot,” said Fleetwood. “All I can do is keep trying to improve every week and keep playing as good as I can. I finished the season off well last year, and I like the couple of courses that are coming next.  “The Ryder Cup is a long way off. It's obviously a lifetime goal and something I want to do, but whether that's next year or in three years' time or five years' time, it doesn't really matter as long as I can play and achieve a goal. Next year would be lovely, that's for sure.” While Gallacher, winner earlier in the season at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and four-time European Tour champion Gonzalez shared second place, rising Scot Henry carded a closing 67 for his first top five finish on The European Tour, sharing fourth place with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who signed for 68 after missing a birdie chance on the last to make the play-off.

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