Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie chipped in for an eagle and a birdie on his way to winning the wind-shortened Qatar Open on Sunday, shooting a 7-under 65 to hold off Jason Day and Peter Hanson.
Lawrie finished with a 15-under total of 201 to win his seventh European Tour event and his second in Qatar. Day (65) and Hanson (67) tied for second, four strokes back.
It was Lawrie’s second victory in a year — he also won the Andalucian Open last March — after a nine-year drought. Now in the top 45, he could contend for a spot in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
”I played lovely all week. But today I think tee to green, apart from my tee shot on 10th, I can’t play much better than that,” said Lawrie, who also won the tournament in 1999. ”I actually felt I left three or four putts out there and got it around to 7 under on a golf course where the greens were pretty firm.”
Lawrie downplayed his age, saying he is playing better now than he was in 1999 when he won the British Open. He added that his putting has improved significantly in the past few months, which allowed him to contend at the season-ending DP World Championship and again last week in Abu Dhabi.
”You get a little bit older and you kind of lose focus but I actually feel the opposite,” Lawrie said. ”I feel I’m getting better. I feel my ball striking has improved immensely since I turned 40. So it’s great to win.”
Lawrie came into the final round with a one-shot lead over Nicolas Colsaerts. The 1999 British Open champion started slowly, with only a birdie on his first eight holes. But just as several players, including Sergio Garcia (68), were challenging for the lead, Lawrie sank a 20-yard chip for eagle on the 9th hole to go up by two.
Day and Garcia continued their charge, but Lawrie recorded four birdies on a flawless back nine that included clutch birdie putts on 11 and 14. And when Hanson chipped in for eagle on 16 to pull within three, Lawrie responded with chip in for birdie on 17. He played it safe on No. 18 and closed out with a short par putt for the win.
Early on, it looked as if Garcia might overtake Lawrie for the win. The Spaniard opened with six birdies on his first 11 holes, including one on 10 that moved him into a tie for the lead with Lawrie.
But Garcia’s putter went cold on the back nine, starting when he missed a two-footer for par on 13. Clearly flustered, Garcia then missed a 10-footer for birdie at the next hole. He took himself out of contention when he bogeyed the next hole.
”Obviously, when we got going nicely after 11 today, we had a chance of winning,” said Garcia, who finished in a tie for fifth. ”I needed probably to make three more birdies which was doable. Unfortunately, things kind of started going the wrong way and putts started not dropping and that’s the way it goes.”
Day also started strong, with four birdies on his first four holes to move up the leaderboard. The 23-year-old Australian bogeyed 9 but bounced back with four straight birdies to close within two shots of the lead. But he missed birdie putts on 15 and 17.
”I played great golf coming in. I just didn’t putt that great,” Day said. ”I saw the leaderboard on 16 and I knew I had to birdie the last few holes. I just kind of ran out of steam there for a little.”
Hanson, who came into the final round two shots back, quietly made a move when he ran off two birdies to finish the front nine. He stumbled with a bogey on 13 only to recover with a birdie on 14 and a chip in for eagle on 16.
First-round leader John Daly (67) finished fourth at 9 under, with Garcia, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (65), Ricardo Gonzalez (70) and Soren Hansen (66) another shot back in a tie for fifth.
Third-ranked Lee Westwood (69) finished nine shots back after a roller-coaster round that included seven birdies but was also marred by four bogeys. He also apologized on Twitter for using profanity, posting: ”Sorry about swearing on the 16th tee. Came off like a rocket and thought it was going further! Wash my mouth out! Perils of live tv.”
The tournament was disrupted by wind all week, and organizers called off Friday’s play and shortened the event to three rounds. Conditions improved Saturday and were calm Sunday.