Wayward Gonzalez gets there in the end

 

Golf Seville Open: On the same course where he hopes to represent Argentina in the World Cup in November, Ricardo Gonzalez won the Seville Open yesterday - thanks to a 40-foot birdie putt on the final green.

Trailing England's Jonathan Lomas and Scot Stephen Gallacher with five holes to play, the 34-year-old - nicknamed "The Bull" - birdied three of them for a two-stroke victory.

Starting the day five behind the South American, Lomas holed in one at the third and also eagled the fifth, but he bogeyed the last for a 66 and had to wait to see if it had cost him a play-off.

Gallacher, nephew of former Ryder Cup captain Bernard, was trying for his first European Tour win in 170 starts, but he bogeyed the 15th and, after driving behind a tree on the long 16th, had to settle for three closing pars and a round of 68.

That left Gonzalez needing only a four on the 432-yard 18th for his third title on the circuit, but he finished in style to take the €166,000 cheque with a 14-under-par total of 274.

Gary Murphy finished best of the Irish challengers but was well off the pace, his final-round 73 leaving him on 285.

Graeme McDowell also shot 73, for a total of 288, while Peter Lawrie's 72 left him on 289.

As for Gonzalez, if he does make the World Cup side - Angel Cabrera and Eduardo Romero are currently ahead of him in the world rankings - he will be praying the organisers don't grow the rough.

In his third-round 69, Gonzalez found only one fairway (and that was when he switched to a two-iron in desperation) and in repeating that score on the last day he hit only four of them.

"That's the best finish of my life," he said. "And I think this will open the door to the top 50 in the world. That is my objective this year."

He went into the event ranked 114th.

Raul Ballesteros, the 23-year-old nephew of Severiano who had been joint leader after 37 holes, fell back to 33rd with closing scores of 74 and 75. It still represented the highest finish of his career so far, however.

Gallacher, the other player in the field with a famous uncle, has had no fewer than 19 top-10 finishes, but there is still a zero in the win column.

"The 15th is probably the hardest hole we play all year," commented the 29-year-old former Scottish and European amateur champion, a member of the team that beat the Tiger Woods-led American Walker Cup team at Porthcawl in 1995.

"My drive there and the one on the next were the only two bad shots I hit. I've had the last four weeks off, so I'm delighted - I'd not been playing that well."

Lomas's only tour win in over 300 starts was the 1996 Czech Open. He switched to a broomhandle putter this week and thought the tournament might end as it started. His 66 on Wednesday won him the pro-am.

He went over the back of the last green, but the ball stayed on the bank of a bunker rather than rolling in.

"I was hoping it was going to go into the sand," said the Ayrshire-based 35-year-old. "I'd not had to play a chip like that all week." He left it 14 feet short and did not give the putt enough break.

"I'd have taken 66 at the start of the day, but once again I threw away a shot at the end," he said.

LEADING FINAL TOTALS

274 - R Gonzalez (Arg) 70 66 69 69 (€166,000) 276 - J Lomas 73 68 69 66, S Gallacher 70 68 70 68 (€87,000 each) 278 - L Oosthuizen (Rsa) 74 71 67 66, J Remesy (Fra) 67 74 69 68, R Derksen (Ned) 70 70 68 70 (€42,000 each)