England’s David Howell dramatically rolled in an eight foot birdie putt on the second hole of sudden death on the Old Course in St Andrews to beat talented young American Peter Uihlein and win the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
It was Howell’s first European Tour victory for seven years and 124 days – the last being the 2006 BMW PGA Championship – and a delighted Howell said: “It’s been a long time coming. I’m hoping this is going to be huge for me in many ways, because I have had many chances to win and I haven’t been able to do it.
“All week I was nervous, I can’t explain why. We all know it’s a big week and we’ve all got lots to play for, but today I found a little more inner strength. I still struggled a little bit to get the pace on the greens under the intense pressure and all in all, I was really pleased with how I stayed in control and kept controlling my swing and holed the ones that I had to right at the end. It’s been an interesting seven years. I lost my way in life and on the course, as well, but now things are really good at the moment and I’m in a really happy place.”
Howell, 38, who wins the US$800,000 first prize, partnered actor Hugh Grant in the Team Championship. He said: “I used Hugh very badly today. I told him last night that I was going to laugh at all his bad shots just for my own entertainment. He’s been a great partner for the four or five years we’ve played. We’ve had a lot of fun and it was great that he made the cut and I’m thrilled that he could watch me play some of the golf I always knew I could and haven’t done over the years in his company. We have been a terrible partnership, a lot of fun, but no good results. But today changes that rather dramatically.
Howell had a five-under-par final round of 67 for a 23-under-par total of 265. It was a round which featured a blistering outward 31, then he held on to play the back nine in par to fight his way into the play-off. He even coped when his drive at the 18th in normal play finished on the road. “I noticed my caddie Steve was having a bit of a mini‑tantrum himself when I ended up on the road there. That was obviously a little bit of a mistake.”
The tournament, conceived as a celebration of links golf, is played over three of the world’s best known and respected links courses – the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the highly regarded Kingsbarns Golf Links.
Howell was the winner but it was the end of an amazing few days for 24-year-old Uihlein. In the second round at Kingsbarns he missed scoring the first 59 on the European Tour by inches as his putt on the final hole drifted left. The following day at St Andrews he holed a 47-yard wedge shot for an eagle on the final hole to put him within two of then leader Tom Lewis.
In the final round, after a poor start when he lost a shot to the field at the 1st, he fought his way back with a 69 to get into the play-off, but he rued a missed four foot putt on the 16th and a 20-foot putt to win on the 18th in normal play.
Uihlein said: “Hats off to David, he played great, made a nice birdie in the play-off and congratulations to him. He made more putts than I did at the end of the day. I just didn’t make the putts when I needed and that’s the way it is.”
One shot behind Howell and Uihlein were England’s Tom Lewis following an excellent eight-under-par 64, and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, with a 68. Lewis, who had the lead after the second round, said: “I played well all week. It was just a shame a couple more putts couldn’t go in and I messed up a couple of holes at Carnoustie yesterday [where he shot a third round 73].”
Of the 14 Major Champions in the field, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, champion in 2010, came nearest to catching Howell and Uihlein with a 19-under par total to finish joint seventh. Darren Clarke at one point staged a significant challenge, going out in 32 and taking his score for the round to five-under-par by the 10th, but he lost his way with bogeys at the 14th and 15th. Popular South African Ernie Els, many people’s favourite, never really got his round going and finished with a 73 for a 36-hole total of 17-under-par.
David Sayer, an investment banker from Essex, earned himself the perfect 37th birthday present by winning the Team Championship with French professional Thomas Levet. They posted a final round 63 for a four-round total of 40-under-par. “I only found out I was playing in the event ten days beforehand and everything that has happened since has been like a dream coming true. Being partnered with Thomas was the first thrill – he is a former Ryder Cup player and therefore it is a privilege to have played with him,” he said.
Bradley Neil, the 17-year-old Scottish Boys champion, missed birdie putts on both the 17th and 18th holes as he and American partner Peter Uihlein were forced to settle for the runners-up spot in the team competition on 38-under-par, sharing second place with English professional Richard McEvoy and retired American businessman Michael Zamkow.
For more information visit: www.alfreddunhilllinks.com