Monday, September 16, 2013

Dutch delight for Luiten

Joost Luiten set the seal on an historic day for Dutch golf by winning the KLM Open after a sudden death play-off with Miguel Angel Jiménez. Shortly after his compatriot Daan Huizing had won the Kharkov Superior Cup on the Challenge Tour, Luiten delighted the huge crowds at Kennemer Golf and Country Club by beating Jiménez with a par at the first extra hole. That sparked scenes of wild celebration not seen since Maarten Lafeber won his national Open in 2003. After both players had parred the last hole in regulation play to finish tied on 12 under par – Jiménez courtesy of a round of 67 and Luiten a 68 – they returned to the 18th tee for the play-off. Having leaked his tee shot right on the 400 yard par four, Jimenez needed a fairway wood for his approach into a strong wind, but managed to find the front edge of the green. However, the 19-time European Tour champion charged his birdie putt six feet past the hole and then missed the return, leaving Luiten to hole from three feet for a par four and a victory which earned him €300,000. That moved Luiten to 11th in The Race to Dubai and also saw him climb into the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.He said: “I’ll never forget this day, that’s for sure. I came second here in 2007, which was a pretty special week. But this has topped that by quite a way. To win your national Open is an unbelievable feeling, I’m so proud.  “There were a lot of nerves jangling inside. I tried to stay calm and focus on my game, but it was very tough in the wind. As soon as you lose your focus in those conditions you know you’re going to make some mistakes, so I stayed patient and waited for my chances to come along, and luckily they did on the back nine. “I have to say the crowd were unbelievable all week. Even when it rained all day yesterday, they still came out to support me, and I’ll never forget that. It makes it so much more enjoyable when you’re playing in front of large crowds, because you know it means something and you want to do well for them. I’m just so pleased I was able to give them this win.” For his part, Jiménez was left to rue his costly bogey in the play-off, but the Spaniard was typically magnanimous and philosophical in defeat. He said: “I was very solid all day but made a couple of mistakes in the play-off, and got punished. But Joost played very well, so credit to him. He’s a deserving winner. “The gusts made it very tough, with club selection especially. But for the most part I coped quite well, so I was pleased. In the end it wasn’t meant to be, but you can’t win them all. I still had a very good week – I have no complaints. I gave it my best shot – and I’m still alive!” Third place was shared between the English duo of Simon Dyson (68) and Ross Fisher (66), France’s Grégory Havret (66) and Ireland’s Damien McGrane (69).

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