Success in Khan for ace Simon
Published 24/05/2010 | 00:53
England's Simon Khan, ranked 471st in the world and not even in the event until Monday, was in dreamland at Wentworth last night when he came from seven behind to win the second most important title in European golf.
The 37-year-old from Essex, who faced an uncertain future when he had to go back to the qualifying school last November, produced the biggest final-day comeback in the history of the European Tour's flagship PGA Championship.
A 20-foot birdie putt on the last, which curled round the back of the cup before toppling in, gave Khan the first prize of over £637,000 by a stroke from Ryder Cup star Luke Donald and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed.
His stunning five-under-par 66, the round of his life, also brings him a five-year tour exemption and a place in July's Open at St Andrews.
“This is what I've always dreamed of doing,” said Khan, whose career had fallen away since he won the 2004 Wales Open and then two years later was a distant runner-up in this tournament behind David Howell.
“It's as much for the family as it is for me — it's unbelievable to be standing here right now.
“This means everything. This tournament is the reason I started playing golf and just being here is special this year.”
With a six-under-par total of 278 on the controversial and far tougher West Course, he becomes the first player to win the trophy after needing a sponsor's invitation.
As a youngster Khan remembers travelling to Wentworth from his home — it involved bus, tube and train — to watch stars like Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo compete at the Surrey venue.
He turned professional in 1991, but like Ian Poulter worked as an assistant at a club first before finally getting a European Tour card at the eighth attempt 10 years later.
Last season he had only one top-10 finish, yet when he went to the dreaded school he won it. Even that, though, gave no hint of what was to come six months later.
Andersson Hed, also joint 13th after 54 holes and winner of his first European Tour title at the Italian Open two weeks ago, sank a 12-foot putt on the last to set the target of five under with a 67.
With two birdies in his first four holes Ulster’s Graeme McDowell looked to be heading towards at least a top 20 finish.
But he then had one run of four bogeys in a row followed by a run of three more and even a birdie three on the 17th only helped lift him to a share of 28th.
Rory McIlroy continued to struggle as he had all week and closed with a two over 73 for a share of 48th.
Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin picked up 25 places on the final day with his two under round of 69 taking him to a share of 34th place.
Meanwhile, Leona Maguire headed qualifying at the Irish Women’s Close championship at Portstewart yesterday by nine shots.
Her sister Lisa, the defending champion, was joint second with Galway’s Sinead O’Sullivan.