Denmark’s Soren Hansen is hoping for a double celebration in Dublin tomorrow night – not just his first win for five years, but also a happy ending to a self-imposed “nightmare”.
Hansen and his manager forgot to send in an entry form for the Open Championship the week after next, but capturing the £400,000 (€590,000) first prize in the European Open at the K Club will have the added bonus of qualifying him for Carnoustie.
“I feel embarrassed about it,” said Hansen, who after a joint best-of-the-week 63 completed with three successive birdies is 10 under par and two ahead of England’s Robert Rock.
Hansen’s chances were given three massive boosts right at the end of the third round.
First long-time leader Pelle Edberg had two double bogeys, then Colin Montgomerie bogeyed the last two holes and finally Niclas Fasth, fourth in the US Open and winner of the BMW International Open in Munich in his last start just two weeks ago, also bogeyed the 18th.
As a result Fasth fell into a tie for fourth, Montgomerie into joint seventh with his one over par 71 and Edberg to 14th.
Just a week ago Hansen, whose one previous victory came at the 2002 Irish Open at Fota Island near Cork, led the French Open with a round to play as well.
The final day did not go as he wanted then. He double-bogeyed two of the first six holes and while he did battle back to second place it was winner Graeme Storm who took not only the trophy, but also the Open spot on offer then.
Consequently, he came to Ireland still red-faced about his blunder.
“Please don’t write too much,” he pleaded with reporters. “I didn’t know about the rules, but I just hope this week or next week will see me through.
“I really like Carnoustie and I’ve had success in the Open too.”
He finished eighth at Muirfield in 2002, partnering winner Ernie Els in the last round.
One place in the Open is available both at the K Club and in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond – and, to his massive relief, it is not necessary to have entered to claim the spots.
A 63 had already been posted by Australian Peter O’Malley when Hansen started his charge to the top of the leaderboard with a 10-foot birdie on the 14th.
Then came further putts from 15, 40 and 12 feet and he said: “I learnt a lot from last week. I bounced back from something horrible there and although I hit some terrible shots on the first two days here today I played fantastic.”
Montgomerie could not say the same. Even before his sad finish he had been in the water on the long seventh for a six and two bunkers on the ninth for a bogey there as well.
Rock, who has never finished higher than fourth in a Tour event, played the last eight holes in four under to move into second place.
He too is trying for the place in the Open and after finishing 16th at Hoylake last summer would hate to miss out on Carnoustie.
Joint third with Fasth are O’Malley, France’s Gregory Havret and also another Swede, Peter Hanson, who produced the perfect end to his round when he holed in one with a six iron on the 18th.
He very nearly did not have the chance to do that. But for some more overnight rain the hole was going to be switched back from a par three to the intended par five, but officials looked at the fairway again and decided it was still too saturated.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell moved into contention alongside Montgomerie on six under with a 65, but Dubliner Padraig Harrington could do no better than 69 and is eight behind, while US Open champion Angel Cabrera ran up a quadruple bogey eight on the fourth and with a 74 for four over is close to last in his first appearance since his Oakmont heroics.