A tense final round at Wentworth for those looking to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team, plus Thai teen Attaya Thitikul wins again
It was an exciting final day on the European Tour at the BMW PGA Championship and it wasn’t just from those who were trying to claim the automatic qualifying spots for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
In the end, the day belonged to American Billy Horschel whose sublime shot into the 18th green gave him a tap-in birdie for a bogey-free 65 and to get him to -19 to finish one shot ahead of halfway leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Laurie Canter. Canter had had a chance to birdie the last to force a play-off but just missed from about 20 feet.
Horschel is only the second American to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and he was the first to win a Rolex Series event. Here’s what he had to say after his win:
“I didn't realise I was the first American to win a Rolex. Obviously, Rolex Series has been around for a few years, and I know some of the other guys have played some of the other Rolex Series events. I didn't realise that I was the first one to do it, and that's pretty special. Add my name to Arnold Palmer, that's legendary stuff. That guy, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have this modern era of golf to play in front of thousands of fans and big sponsors. Tiger Woods took it to another level but Arnie is the one who started it.”
Horschel with added motivation to win
The 34-year-old also said that he added motivation heading into the week. Referencing the Ryder Cup, he said:
“I didn't play well enough to make enough points to be an automatic qualifier. I didn't play consistent enough over the last few months to really give myself a great chance to be picked. I will say this, there was a little added motivation this week. I thought I was going to get a phone call. Didn't think it was going to be a phone call that said I made the team. But it was a phone call saying, hey, you had a great year, obviously we talked, but we're going to go in a different direction.
“I didn't get that phone call. I was a little upset. I was a little ticked. Gave me a little bit of fire in my butt or my arse, to be nice to really not show anything, but you know, just gave me a little fire, not that I needed it.”
All to play for to make the European Ryder Cup team
Justin Rose needed a win to secure an automatic qualifying spot in the Ryder Cup, he didn’t get it but put on a brilliant display during his final round, closing with an eagle to card a 65 and finish -16 in a tie for sixth. Bernd Wiesberger's top-20 finish ensured the Austrian did qualify but he explained that it was a pressure that he hadn’t experienced before, he said:
“I've never felt like this on a golf course before. It was very high pressure. Normally when you play for tournament wins, you're excited and you're anxious on the first tee and you kind of improve into it as the round goes on.
“Today, I never, never let off and I just had to take deep breaths for every shot and I guess that's what it means to be able to play for a Ryder Cup Team. I mean, I don't think I have to mention, it's been a lifelong goal for me to be part of a European Team and I'm very proud to have just done enough to get into that team and go to Whistling Straits in a couple weeks.”
Despite a final round of 77, Lee Westwood secured a record-equalling 11th Ryder Cup appearance and Shane Lowry, who needed to finish in the top eight, could only manage a final round of 71 to tie for 17th.
He and Rose would have to wait to see whether they had done enough to secure their places via the three Captain’s picks that were announced by Padraig Harrington after the conclusion of the event. You can see the full European and USA Ryder Cup teams here.
The European Tour now heads to the Dutch Open.
Thitikul wins second LET event of the season
A few hours before 18-year-old Emma Raducanu and 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez took to the Arthur Ashe stadium for the U.S. Open final, another teen sporting sensation was on course for a second Ladies European Tour title of the season.
In a thrilling final round Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul won the VP Bank Swiss Ladies Open by one shot over Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord.
The 18-year-old was four strokes off the lead heading into the final round on Saturday. Four birdies on the front nine saw her reach the top of the leaderboard.
The Thai star was playing alongside Skarpnord, who pushed the teenager all the way with the duo tied for the lead after 15 holes.
But it was back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 that ensured Thitikul set the clubhouse lead of 16-under-par, and no one was able to catch her as she secured her fourth LET title.
The 2021 Race to Costa del Sol leader said:
“I hit pretty good shots out there and I gave myself a lot of chances to make birdies. I rolled the putts really well today and was making a lot of them.
“I worked really hard last year with my coach, and I think all the results tell me that I’m working in a good way, and it is paying off. I’m so happy to get another win.”
At the Aramco Team Series – London, it was Skarpnord who beat the young star in a play-off at Centurion Club but this time the Norwegian couldn’t getter the better of Thitikul.
A round of 68 which included five birdies and one bogey meant Skarpnord finished in outright second place on 15-under-par. She commented after her final round:
“Obviously, I would like to win but I’m happy to see Atthaya win, she deserves it, and she is so good. I have had a couple of good weeks now so hopefully I can finish off the year with a few more, then we can call it a decent season.”
Home favourites Kim Metraux and Elena Moosmann ended the tournament tied for third place on 14-under-par.
In the 2021 Race to Costa del Sol, Thitikul’s second win of the season means she extends her advantage at the top of standings, and she now has 2,887.46 points from 13 tournaments.
Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou is second (1,394.35) while Finland’s Sanna Nuutinen is third (1,377.27) and Norway’s Skarpnord has moved up to fourth (1,145.86) after her runner-up finish.
This week the Ladies European Tour moves to France to the Lacoste Ladies Open De France.
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