The CAZOO OPEN, the first event of the UK Swing, returned to the Celtic Manor Resort, playing on the magnificent Twenty Ten courser, and what an event it has been.
If you could ‘bite your nails’ while sitting on the ‘edge of your seat’ that wouldn’t be a cliche enough to describe how close the final day was.
Nacho Elvira overcame a heartbreaking bogey on the 72nd hole to beat Justin Harding in a play-off and win his first European Tour title at the 2021 Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale.
The Spaniard entered the final day at The Celtic Manor Resort with a six shot lead but quickly saw that eaten into as he turned in level par, with Harding, Mikko Korhonen and Callum Shinkwin all looking to deny him a wire to wire victory.
A bogey on the 12th saw him caught at the top and while Elvira made birdies on the 15th and 17th, he three putted the last to sign for a 71 and finish at 16 under alongside Harding, who had carded a bogey free 65.
Both men hit the green in three at the first trip back up the par five 18th and after Elvira missed a birdie chance to win it from nine feet, Harding completed a three putt from 24 to hand the 34-year-old the title.
Finn Korhonen finished at 15 under after a 66, a shot clear of Englishman Shinkwin who closed with 67.
Nacho’s victory comes at the 195th attempt and sees him finally get over the line after three second place finishes on the European Tour, two of them coming via a play-off.
With four wins on the European Challenge Tour, Elvira’s class has never been in doubt, but he arrived in South Wales having not recorded a top ten for over two years and with nine missed cuts in his last 11 events.
Against that backdrop, he had spoken of just being pleased to be in contention this week but he leaves Newport as the third wire to wire winner of the season and just the second Spanish winner of this event after Miguel Ángel Jiménez 16 years ago.
“It means the world. That’s what we practise for and what we strive for. We try to win, to be at the best level on the European Tour and play with the best. It means the world to me.”
“What am I doing to myself? I’m speechless right now to be honest. I thought I had it all pretty under control but to be honest I got pretty nervous on the last couple of putts on the regular 18. I was more calm in the play-off than I was on the 18.
“It’s a shame to see someone miss a putt, I suppose they felt the same for me when I missed but I can’t believe I won.”
Nacho often speaks of his admiration for Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal and he was hopeful that his countrymen would be proud of him.
“I hope Seve, wherever he is, I hope he’s proud. And I hope José María is proud as well.”
Harding trimmed the lead with a birdie from 13 feet at the first and when Elvira failed to get up and down from the sand and then bogeyed the fifth after being fortunate to not find the water, the advantage was just two.
A 25 foot left to righter on the sixth seemed to calm Elvira’s nerves and he holed from 12 feet at the next to be five ahead but, while he was standing still, the chasing pack was gathering.
That’s what we practise for and what we strive for. We try to win, to be at the best level on the European Tour and play with the best. It means the world to me
Harding holed a ten footer at the eighth to cut the gap to four and Korhonen added a two putt birdie at the par five ninth to a 50 footer on the fourth to join him at 12 under.
Nacho three putted the eighth but got up and down at the ninth despite being forced to lay up after finding some very thick rough, with Harding making his own birdie with two putts.
Korhonen came up just short of the green at the par five 11th but got down in two from a long way out to get to 13 under, while Harding also birdied with two putts before Korhonen joined him two back thanks to a gain from six feet at the 12th.
A stunning approach left Korhonen with a tap-in at the 14th and when Elvira found a nasty lie off the tee at the 12th and sent his second a long way left, he had been caught.
Korhonen had the lead after he got up down from the bank at the side of the driveable par four 15th, with Harding keeping chase with a 25 footer on the 14th.
To see the full leaderboard just go HERE.
And its huge congratulations to Brendan Lawlor who carded rounds of 70-76 to win the inaugural EDGA Cazoo Open at The Celtic Manor Resort, his second success at an EDGA European Tour event.
Playing in the first of five 36-hole events forming the EDGA European Tour in 2021, the Irishman followed up his one under par opening round of 70 on The Twenty Ten Course, host venue of the Ryder Cup 11 years ago, with a five over par round of 76.
The tournament featured eight of the top-ranked players on the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) competing on the same layout as the European Tour field is tackling at the Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale.
Brendan, who has Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome, a disability characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs, finished ahead of Italy’s Tomasso Perrino for his second victory at an EDGA European Tour event, following his win at the 2019 EDGA Scottish Open.
“It feels amazing. It has been an incredible week, the hospitality and the course here at Celtic Manor has been amazing. To lift the trophy at the end of the week is just a pleasure, I’m delighted.
“The top EDGA players are competing and it’s hard to separate each other – whoever has a good day will win. We’re trying to get more and more people into the game and the European Tour has given us an amazing opportunity to promote the game on the world stage. It’s going to bring so many more people into the game and keep it moving forward.
“I enjoyed it. I’ve put a lot of work in; it was a long year stuck at home and I put a lot of work in hitting balls into a net. I kept myself ready because I knew we’d be back at some stage. It’s an honour playing courses like that. The fairways are lush, the tee boxes are lush. You have to blame yourself if you hit a bad shot, you can’t blame the course.”
The field of eight players will also take part in the ISPS HANDA World Disability Invitational, which is being hosted by Lawlor, next week at Massereene Golf Club and Galgorm Castle in Northern Ireland, an event running concurrently with the ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management.
“I shot one under on the first day, basically off the back sticks, which is good shooting. We can go out there and show we have game, and that’s the most important thing. That’s what people want to see. We had fans following me and Tomasso out there today, they loved to see it. I’m lost for words – it was a great week.”
The European Disabled Golf Association (EDGA) initiative is taking place under the umbrella of the European Tour’s Golf For Good initiative – the Tour’s overarching Corporate Social Responsibility programme.
After the ISPA HANDA World Disability Invitational presented by Brendan Lawlor, a new group of golfers taken from the WR4GD will participate in the EDGA Hero Open, at Fairmont St Andrews from August 7-8, and the EDGA Cazoo Classic, at London Golf Club from August 14-15.
The top four players from each group of two tournaments qualify for the returning EDGA Dubai Finale – the fifth and final EDGA European Tour event of 2021, held alongside the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – the final Rolex Series event of the year – at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Friday and Saturday (November 19-20).
Scoring for the remaining four EDGA tournaments will feature on the European Tour’s website and App for fans to follow, while the tournament world feed broadcast will also feature updates across the weekend, with the winners also part of the main prize-giving ceremonies.
Support for the event couldn’t come any bigger in the name of sport. Global football superstar Gareth Bale is backing his country’s national golf open after the four-time Champions League winner committed to becoming supporting partner of the Cazoo Open.
Gareth is no stranger to the course having played it many times, and drawing large crowds for his appearance in the Celebrity Cup.
The Wales international, who has made 96 appearances for his country and is his nation’s all-time top goal scorer, is an avid golf fan and, in partnership with his management group ICM Stellar Sports, wants to play a role in the development of professional and junior golf in Wales.
“The Cazoo Open had been away from the European Tour for a few years and, after watching the coverage last year, ICM Stellar Sports and I decided we wanted to play a part in the development of golf in Wales.”
“We want to make golf in Wales bigger and we believe that this event can play a big role in that. Hopefully we can get more people watching and grow the game of golf in Wales.
“We want to make it a real spectacle. To have the Welsh public involved would be amazing. We’ve looked at doing other things with junior golf to try and build up golf in Wales – we want to get youngsters out there to watch the players play and do as much as we can to promote it.”
Celtic Manor Resort hosted two consecutive events on the 2020 Race to Dubai as part of the European Tour’s UK Swing, when the Cazoo Open and Celtic Classic were played at the 2010 Ryder Cup host venue.
Gareth, who is an honorary member of the Twenty Ten Club said……..
“Celtic Manor is an incredible venue. It’s grown so much over the years; the facilities are amazing. The Twenty Ten course is hard when the rough is up and if you don’t hit many fairways. Everybody who has been there has loved playing it and it’s always a good test of golf.”
ICM Stellar Sports will also take on the role of co-promoter of the Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale after signing a three-year agreement with the European Tour.
Guy Kinnings, Deputy CEO European Tour, Ryder Cup Director and Chief Commercial Officer, said……..
“Gareth is a globally-recognisable sports star and we are delighted that he has chosen to throw his support behind his country’s national golf open. We look forward to working with Gareth and ICM Stellar Sports to develop this tournament over the next few years.”
Jonathan Barnett is Executive Chairman at ICM Stellar Sports……..
“With top clients in football, rugby, athletics, American football and other sports it was always natural that we would move into golf but, as with everything we do, it was about getting the timing right. Golf is entering a new era of competitiveness and opportunity and by supporting events like the Cazoo Open we hope to see some great golf and the emergence of some great golfers.”
Romain Langasque, winner of the Amateur Championship in 2015, won the 2020 edition of the event, finishing two strokes ahead of 2020 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Sami Välimäki on eight under par. The win earned the Frenchman his first European Tour title.
Dawn Bowden, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Welsh Government was understandably excited about the event.
“The involvement of a true Welsh sporting icon further cements the long-standing links between Wales and this exciting golf event. Furthermore, Gareth’s involvement will shine a spotlight on the work being undertaken to drive youngsters’ interest and increase participation in the sport which has many health and well-being benefits.”
Celtic Manor staged the Wales Open for 15 consecutive seasons on the European Tour. The tournament produced some unforgettable memories over those years and also strengthened the venue’s connections with the Ryder Cup.
After Denmark’s Steen Tinning won the inaugural Wales Open at the turn of the Millennium, Paul McGinley won the second tournament way back in 2001, helping him qualify for a Ryder Cup debut at The Belfry where he holed the winning putt. The Irishman went on to be involved in six of the last seven Ryder Cups as a player, vice-captain or skipper – and he won every single one of them, culminating in his impeccable captaincy of Europe’s latest victory at Gleneagles in 2014.
Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter, Robert Karlsson and Miguel Angel Jiménez are among the other Ryder Cup stars to get their hands on the Wales Open trophy but the most dramatic tale belongs to Graeme McDowell. He secured his first tournament title for two years with weekend rounds of 64 and 63 at the Wales Open in 2010, won the US Open on his very next start and then returned to Celtic Manor to clinch the winning point in the Ryder Cup four months later.
Other players to have lifted the handsome silver dragon trophy include England’s Simon Khan, South African Richard Sterne, Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and current holder Dutchman Joost Luiten, who held his nerve to complete a dramatic one-shot victory over Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood in September.
As well as thrilling finishes, the event has also seen a close shave with the European Tour’s first ever round of 59 (Phillip Archer 2006), one player scoring two holes in one on the same hole (Elliot Saltman 2011) and the European Tour’s record long drive of 447 yards (Nicolas Colsaerts 2014).
Complementing the top golfing action over the years has been a fantastic hospitality pavilion for corporate entertainment and a tented village where crowds have been treated to interactive challenges, trick shot shows and Q&A interviews with the likes of Wales rugby captains Jonathan Davies, Martyn Williams and Sam Warburton.
The Wales Open didn’t take place in 2015 as Celtic Manor invested resources in other events and projects, like the ICC Wales. It’s a given that as well as the Cazoo Open, more top flight golf will continue to be part of the resort’s future.
The golf season was suspended back in March last year because of the pandemic, so the resumption of the European Tour action took a while to happen and a lot of careful planning. It was very different too. The games back then were played behind closed doors.
As you can imagine, all tournaments followed stringent safety and testing protocols set out in the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which indeed will continue this year in line with international Government guidance and health guidelines.
If you’d like to find out more, the Celtic Manor golf pages still have information about last year’s event to see HERE.
And if you want to find out all thing Golf at the Resort, just head HERE.