DANNY Willett claimed his second Rolex Series title in successive seasons as the Englishman overcame Jon Rahm in stunning fashion to win the BMW PGA Championship title – his first victory on home soil.
The former Masters champion was locked in a tense battle with the determined Spaniard all weekend at Wentworth Club as Rahm sought to join his hero Seve Ballesteros as a winner on the West Course.
And there were turning points aplenty for the 21,962 fans in attendance – but none more so than at the 11th.
Having entered the final round tied for the lead, Willett had pulled two clear through 10 holes courtesy of four birdies – to Rahm’s two.
But the fomer World Amateur No. 1 found himself in some trouble with his second and third shots at the par four 11th, leaving himself with a monster putt for bogey.
He duly drained it for a five, though, with one of his many masterful escapes during the week on the Burma Road course.
And thereafter the wind was taken from Rahm’s sails – the 24-year-old bogeyed two of the following three holes with a birdie in between.
Willett, who won the final Rolex Series event of the 2018 season – the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – closed out a deserved three-stroke victory with birdies at the two closing par fives to card a five-under 67 and a 20-under total.
Willett said: “I’ve watched this tournament for a lot of years. You know, through the Match Play and then obviously the BMW PGA Championship.
“It’s always nice to be able to compete on home soil. I’ve had a couple looks at The Open a couple of times, but to be able to win finally on such an iconic golf course, with I think one of the best fields they have had.
“The last kind of eight or 10 months with a couple of wins in the Rolex Series Events – it’s really put things right in my own mind, which is nice.
“You know Jon is going to be sticking around all day. I obviously got off to a quick start and 11 was a real big point in the golf tournament.
“I’ve watched a lot of the golf on TV and the people that win every week are not the guys that hit every fairway and hit everything to six feet.
“Certain things happen through the week. And one of those moments might happen on a Sunday, might happen on a Thursday or a Friday,” said the golfer who played as a junior at Rotherham GC.
“But for it to happen on Sunday early on in the back nine was crucial just to keep my nose in front really – just to give me that little bit of breathing room down them last six holes.
“Any tournament win is amazing. That’s now my seventh win on Tour, and every single time I’ve won, they have been pretty stellar events against pretty stellar fields and the Ryder Cup stuff.
Willett, whose Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in 2016 was overshadowed by comments made by his brother about the Amercian team, said: “It’s the first event of what, 40-odd (qualification events), whatever it’s going to be, for a year’s time when it’s back in America, Whistling Straits.”
The Yorkshireman, who won the English Amateur in 2009 before turning pro, moved to ninth in the Race to Dubai rankings.
Rahm – who was also a former No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings – had gone for broke on the final hole by going for the green with a second shot which ended up in the water.
But the Arizona State University graduate bravely got up and down and signed for a final round 70 and a 17-under total.
Rahm said: “I’m not going to lie. It hurts. It stings. I played good all week, and up until the 13th hole, I was incapable of hitting an iron close to the pin and made a couple stupid mistakes.
“I should have come closer than two shots on the last two holes. I had my chances.
“Again, I did what I had to do. Just had a couple of really stupid mistakes there. I’m just going to have to figure out why it happened and that’s it.
“At the same time, Danny played amazing golf. He played really, really good. I believe that 11th hole was the key moment of the match.
“He had a long, long putt for bogey and I had a decent look for a birdie, and he makes a bomb for a bogey and I missed my putt right,” said the Irish Open winner.
“That was at least a one-shot swing right there and if he doesn’t make it, I’m putting more relaxed without the whole crowd going crazy.
“That was a key moment of the match,” added Rahm, who has won three Rolex events in his four European Tour victories.
South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout earned his best result in a Rolex Series event as he took outright third spot with a 16-under total, after closing out the week with a four under 68.
America’s Wentworth debutants – Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed – shared fourth spot while home hero Justin Rose took outright eighth spot.
Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, who shot 76 on Thursday, shared ninth spot with Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, the former Middlesex amateur, who was also a member at Wentworth for a while before turning pro.
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