30 June 2019: The final round challenged the very best under difficult conditions for scoring as the late groups struggled to put together a real number on Sunday. In the end, an even 71 was enough for Christiaan Bezuidenhout to secure a six-stroke victory over five golfers, the biggest ever margin at the Real Club Valderrama.
Gaganjeet Bhullar needed a rousing finish to not only secure a top ten but also try and make it into the 148th Open Championship. But a second straight 72 dropped him to 1-under 283, good only for T13 with Andy Sullivan.
Needing some late birdies to make a case for a chance to play the Open, Bhullar made birdies at 11 & 14, but his fourth bogey of the day at the 16th all but put paid to any hopes for gate crashing into the Open, starting on the 18th July.
Bezuidenhout started the day with a five-stroke cushion but a mid-round meltdown threatened to take it all away from him. He did well to manage the rough tide and hold on for a strong victory.
The 25-year-old South African went seven clear when he birdied the first two holes. But he bogeyed four of the next five holes and the advantage was down to three, against the formidable Jon Rahm.
Bezuidenhout did well to weather the storm before adding three birdies from the ninth to regain control. The first European Tour title for the young South African was also good to secure a place in The Open at Royal Portrush.
“I’m proud of myself for hanging in there today after a tough stretch in the middle of my round,” said. Bezuidenhout.
“I had a tough stretch in the middle of my round from five to seven there. I made a great save on eight which just kept the momentum on my side and I bounced back with three birdies in a row. That just settled me down nicely, I just had to keep on hitting greens and the rest will take care of itself.
“I was nervous. It’s a tough golf course, anything can happen, especially those last three holes playing into the wind. I’m really pleased with the way I played and to finish it off is unbelievable.”
Spaniards take plenty of pride in this event and Rahm soon found himself rubbing shoulders with compatriots Alvaro Quiros, Eduardo de la Riva and Adri Arnaus. France’s Mike Lorenzo Vera was also in T2 with that crowded group behind the winner.
Sergio Garcia finished in third, a shot further back from the group in second.
European Tour Notes
Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and local favourite Adri Arnaus also qualified into the Open, among the top three players in the top ten not already exempt.
Spaniards Eduardo de la Riva and Alvaro Quiros also finished in a five way tie at four under but missed out due to sitting lower on the Official World Golf Ranking, while World Number 11 Jon Rahm is already exempt.
Bezuidenhout’s victory completes a remarkable rise for a player who has had to overcome adversity since a young age.
At the age of two he mistakenly drank rat poison, an incident that led to him developing a stammer that caused him to suffer anxiety.
The beta blockers he took to combat his stammer led to him failing a doping test at the 2014 Amateur Championship and while his two year ban was reduced to nine months after officials adjudged he had not been seeking to gain a competitive advantage, he missed out on representing his country at the Eisenhower Trophy.
Now five years on from those dark days, he is a European Tour winner in his 57th appearance and moves into the top ten of the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex after also finishing second and third this season.
-10 C Bezuidenhout (SA);
-4 A Quiros, J Rahm, E De La Riva, A Arnaus (all Spa), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra);
-3 S Garcia (Spa)