James Heath ended a terrific week at Rinkven International Golf Club earlier today claiming 4th place in the Belgium Knockout and with it a cheque for €50,000. His marathon effort also earned a lucrative final spot in the European Tour’s flagship event – the BMW PGA Championship which starts on Thursday.
Teeing up this week, Heath fired rounds of 68 (-3) and 67 (-4) in the strokeplay part of a new tournament on the European Tour and comfortably through to the 9-hole knock-out stages in second place.
A narrow one shot victory in the last 64 against Scott Vincent was followed by a dramatic victory over Spain’s Scott Fernandez in the next round. Trailing Fernandez by two shots standing on the 18th tee, James fired an imperious short iron to 18 inches to put the pressure on the Spaniard who had found the trees from the tee. When Scott missed a 4-foot putt for bogey, Heath tapped in his tidldler to move into the last 16 where he faced former European No.1 Robert Karlsson.
A scrappy match with Karlsson went to extra holes with both players finishing on +1. With the Swede deep in the woods off the tee on the second play-off hole and Heath in the perfect spot, it looked most likely that he would advance to the next round. His second shot however found the green side bunker. No problem for James who held his nerve, splashing out to five feet before cooly slotting home the putt to advance to the Quarter-Finals on Sunday.
Tournament favourite and last remaining Belgian, Nicolas Colsaerts stood between Heath and a Semi-Final place which at the very least would ensure a spot in the BMW PGA Championship. A daunting prospect. No problem for James who calmly fired 4 birdies and a single bogey to defeat the home favourite who fought hard all the way but in the end came up one short of Heath’s impressive -3 total – the joint lowest nine holes on the final day.
Frenchman Benjamin Hébert beat in-form Mike Lorenzo-Vera in his Quarter-Final and would prove a tough opponent for Heath in the Semi-Final. It was a cracking match from start to finish. Heath took early control with a birdie-two on the 3rd before Hébert roared back with two excellent birdies of his own to take a two stroke advantage heading into the final three holes. Some outstanding ball striking from Heath set up eagle chances on seven and eight. Both would result in birdies. Hébert made a hash of the Par-5 8th and in the end holed a 10-foot putt to stay level. He held his nerve however on 18, holing another 10-foot putt to end James’ quest for glory.
3rd/4th place play-off games are always somewhat of an anti-climax but with plenty of Euros and Race to Dubai points on offer James dug deep but in the end came up one shy of David Drysdale’s -1 score to finish 4th
It was another impressive performance from Spain’s Adrian Otaegui who beat Hébert in the final to claim top spot and the title.
Great playing James and good luck at Wentworth!