Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Golf

Koepka title hands McIlroy victory

American Brooks Koepka claimed his first European Tour title in the Turkish Airlines Open on Sunday, a result which ensured his friend Rory McIlroy won the Race to Dubai for the second time in three years.

Koepka carded a flawless closing 65 at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal to finish 17 under par, one shot ahead of Ian Poulter who missed a birdie putt from six feet on the 18th to force a play-off.

Marcel Siem, Jamie Donaldson or Sergio Garcia had needed to win in Antalya and at next week's DP World Tour Championship to have a chance of overtaking McIlroy on the money list.

And although Siem started the final round just one shot off the lead, the BMW Masters winner could only card a closing 71 to finish joint eighth, with Donaldson 19th and Garcia 25th.

Koepka, who won three times on the Challenge Tour last year to gain instant promotion to the European Tour, carded four birdies on the front nine and holed from 40 feet for another on the 10th, before a brilliant approach to the 13th set up an eagle from just eight feet.

That gave him a two-shot lead and although Poulter halved his deficit with his fifth birdie of the day on the same hole, the Ryder Cup star was unable to find another on the last despite a superb long greenside bunker shot.

Poulter, who had a six-shot lead at halfway before a third round of 75, said: "Hats off to Brooks for a great round today, obviously he's played some superb golf there.

"The damage was done on Saturday. That, for me, is really disappointing. To have played three great rounds of golf, and just one blip on Saturday, which is a real shame.

"So you know, it's frustrating, is what it is. There's no other word for it. Yes, I'm going to be angry. I'll be angry for a good few days. But that's fine. I'll keep myself in my own little room and have a little chat with myself and come out and win next week."

Poulter looked to have the benefit of seeing playing partner Lee Westwood hole his birdie putt from an almost identical position on the 18th, but added: "It was probably a bad thing that I actually stood there and watched Westy's putt, because I think he pushed it slightly and it fell in the right edge.

"I knew my putt was going to break right to left. I hit it on what I thought was right edge on a decent pace and it broke across the hole."

Koepka follows in the footsteps of his good friend Peter Uihlein in winning on the European Tour and will almost certainly succeed Uihlein as the Sir Henry Cotton rookie of the year as well.

"It's awesome," said the 24-year-old. "I played well This field is first class, some of the best players in the world, and it's nice to get the win.

"I feel like I've been playing really well. Actually had a little vacation last week, which was nice, kind of recharged the batteries, didn't touch a club. I should take more vacations.

"To jump into the top 50 in the world (he started the week 61st) and be in all the majors and I guess some of the World Golf Championships events, it will be special."

World number six Henrik Stenson, who will defend his title in Dubai next week, carded a flawless closing 64 to finish third on 14 under, one shot ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez, overnight leader Wade Ormsby and English pair Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett.

Siem was another shot back alongside Westwood and revealed he had dislocated a rib while warming up in the gym before his round.

"My physio tried to crack it back in, it didn't work and then we went so see the chiropractor and they pushed it back in," Siem said. "I couldn't have a proper backswing but I played all right. I don't want to blame it on anything to be honest.

"I hit a lot of greens, had great birdie chances, just didn't hole a putt."

McIlroy, who was one of the first players to congratulate Koepka on Twitter, did not play in any of the first three Final Series events as he prepared for an upcoming court case against a former management company.

But the world number one had already done enough with his four victories this season - including the Open and US PGA Championship - to be crowned European number one for the second time.

McIlroy, who won his first WGC event in between his two major titles, said: "This has obviously been the best season of my career by a long way, and to win The Race to Dubai for the second time really is something truly special.

"That four-week spell over the summer, from The Open to the US PGA Championship, would have to be the best golf of my life, so I feel like I've really earned The Race to Dubai.

"Winning it for the first time two years ago was a fantastic feeling, but I feel like I'm now a more complete player and my all-round game has moved to another level. I've put in a lot of hard work this season, with my game and my fitness, so it's nice to get the rewards at the end of it.

"In some ways the pressure is off next week, but I'll fight very hard to end the year on a high with another victory. Finishing with five birdies to win the DP World Tour Championship in 2012 is right up there with my best performances on the European Tour, so every time I go back to Jumeirah Golf Estates it always brings back some happy memories.

"It's a great tournament to finish the season with and if I can notch up another win it really will complete an amazing year. I'm looking forward to getting out on the golf course and feeling that competitive edge again."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph