England’s David Howell made a welcome return to winning ways on the European Tour, securing victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews after a playoff against Peter Uihlein of the USA.
Uihlein carried a two-shot lead into round four, but on a day of super-low scoring, he was quickly put under pressure when he stumbled to a bogey on his opening hole.
Playing just ahead, David Howell got off to a flying start with five birdies in his first seven holes. Out in 31, the Englishman who hadn’t won on the European Tour since the BMW Championship of 2006, put himself in a great position to take the title.
As the players turned into the wind on the run for home, the scoring was more difficult and, for most, it was a question of holding on to the finish line.
Thomas Levet of France had put himself right in the mix, seven-under-par for his first 11 holes, but he fell out of contention with a bogey at the 12th, a double-bogey seven on the par-5 14th then another dropped shot at the infamous “Road Hole,” 17th. He came back in 38 and finished down in a tie for seventh.
England’s Tom Lewis gave himself a great chance of victory with a superb final round of 64. His four-round total of 22-under-par set the clubhouse lead.
After an excellent par save on the 17th, David Howell had a chance to better that number with a par on the last. But, in a strange strategic move he took a 3-wood from the 18th tee and fired his ball onto Granny Clark’s Wynd. He had to play his second from the tarmac and his shot ended in the “Valley of Sin.” He did well to get up and down from there, beat Lewis’ score by one and post 23-under-par for the tournament.
Uihlein also made a great par on the penultimate hole and gave himself a chance for birdie and the outright win on the last. But his putt just dropped away from the hole and he tapped in for a four.
So a playoff was required and Howell and Uihlein made the short walk from the scorer’s hut to the 1st tee.
Both men made regulation pars on the 1st so they moved across to the 18th to fire back towards the “Auld Grey Toon.” After finding the sprawling fairway, Uihlein went first and struck his second shot past the flag, some 20 feet. Howell went next and put his approach much closer, just 10 feet beyond the stick.
Uihlein left his putt just short then Howell, renowned as a good putter, rolled his birdie effort home to take the title.
For a man who has spent a number of years in the golfing wilderness, it was a huge moment and the victory will secure his start in a number of significant events over the coming months, including the Dubai World Championship.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “For a time I must confess I was in the depths of despair with regards my golf and I have to thank all those who supported me. I’ve never played in the Open at St Andrews and that’s still a dream of mine. But to win a tournament as a professional at the Home of Golf is just thrilling.”
Although Uihlein narrowly missed out on the title, the 24-year-old has proved himself to be a fine player who will surely go on to claim numerous titles in the coming years.
It was an important week for England’s Tom Lewis. His tied third place finish should be enough to secure his playing rights for 2014.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Old Course St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, Scotland
Sep 26-29, purse €3,700,940, par 72
1 David Howell (Eng) 67 68 63 67 265 €589,561
2 Peter Uihlein (USA) 71 60 65 69 265 €393,038
T3 Tom Lewis (Eng) 64 65 73 64 266 €199,154
T3 Shane Lowry (Irl) 68 66 64 68 266 €199,154
5 Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 65 66 69 67 267 €149,984
6 Garth Mulroy (RSA) 66 69 65 68 268 €123,807
T7 Chris Wood (Eng) 66 69 69 65 269 €81,952
T7 Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 68 68 66 67 269 €81,952
T7 Thomas Levet (Fra) 68 64 68 69 269 €81,952
T7 Martin Kaymer (Ger) 69 66 63 71 269 €81,952
T7 Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg) 67 69 63 70 269 €81,952
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage