The final tournament of 2006 ? the men’s Mauritius Open at Belle Mare Plage ? produced arguably the most tense finish of the year as former Ryder Cup star Philip Price four-putted on the last green to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Welshman, who famously defeated Phil Mickelson in the 2002 Ryder Cup singles at The Belfry, handed the title to England’s Van Phillips (pictured) by one shot and in the end could only finish in a tie for second place alongside Spanish veteran Jose Rivero and Miles Tunnicliff.
The tournament is not sanctioned by any of the major tours but usually attracts plenty of interest from the inhabitants of the idyllic tropical island in the Indian Ocean. There are separate tournaments for men and ladies and the event has now been going for an impressive 13 years. Played over three rounds right at the end of the year, there is more of a relaxed atmosphere among the pros than at other tournaments.
Price had started his final round impressively and picked up four shots in the first six holes, looking a safe bet for the title. As Phillips teed off on the 7th hole of his final round he found himself eight strokes behind and seemingly playing for place money.
He then produced a stunning run on the back nine to come home in 29, but despite this Price could still afford to take one more stroke than his partner on the final hole, a long par 5. Both men hit impressive drives, but while Phillips found the green in two following a superb fairway wood, Price opted to lay up short of the green and then fluffed a 60-yard wedge. Phillips comfortably two-putted from 60ft to secure a birdie, meaning that Price needed to get down in two putts from 50ft for outright victory.
It was not to be, however, as his first putt raced 10ft past the hole and he then missed the one coming back. Price was then left with a four-footer to salvage an unlikely play-off opprotunity but incredibly pulled the putt wide of the hole, handing the title to an astonished Phillips.
“I was as stunned as everybody else,” said Phillips afterwards.
“I just wasn’t expecting Phil to do that. When we shook hands afterwards I just didn’t know what to say. That simply isn’t the way I would have wanted to win.”
In the ladies event there was also some drama as England’s Lora Fairclough defeated Italy’s Veronica Zorzi in a sudden death play-off.