Relieved Hedblom secures victory

Swede Peter Hedblom breathed a huge sigh of relief at Gleneagles tonight after winning the Johnnie Walker Championship.

Swede Peter Hedblom breathed a huge sigh of relief at Gleneagles tonight after winning the Johnnie Walker Championship.

The 39-year-old’s ecstasy was not just that he had grabbed only his third European Tour victory in 364 starts, but also that he did not need a play-off.

Four times Hedblom has gone into sudden death in his career and four times he has lost – the most recent of them last Sunday in Holland when England’s Simon Dyson sank an 18-foot birdie putt.

On this occasion, though, a five under par 67 gave the former Malaysian and Moroccan Open champion his first success actually on European soil.

Hedblom beat compatriot Martin Erlandsson by one after Erlandsson, joint 20th overnight, had set the clubhouse target with an astonishing 62, the lowest round of his life.

After a magical nine birdies in his first 12 holes the world number 365, who last week closed the KLM Open with a course record-equalling 63, had moved from six behind to two in front.

Erlandsson, taking his mind off the search for his first Tour win by studying his thumb of all things, added another birdie on the short 17th.

His round would have counted as another course record but for the fact that placing of the ball was allowed all week on the wet fairways.

By then, however, Hedblom had reeled off four birdies in a row around the turn as well, but he then failed to get up and down from rough left of the 15th green.

So one more birdie was needed and it came with a superb pitch to four feet on the long 16th. Then two closing pars – not easy on bumpy greens he reckoned to be the worst of the year – gave him the £233,330 (€2,651,000) first prize with a 13 under total of 275.

Defending champion Gregory Havret and Scotland’s former Open champion Paul Lawrie shared third place.

Hedblom said: "That was so tough. I thought last week was, but this was harder.

“I had to dig down so deep, but I am so happy. What a round Martin played – I couldn’t believe it and he should have won.

“I just had to plug on. I hit a great shot into 16, but making two pars was even harder.

“This year has been unbelievable. I played so poorly (not a single top 30 finish) until last week.

“I want to play in the big tournaments, but I keep taking one step back. Hopefully this is two steps forward.”

Erlandsson, whose seven successive birdies from the sixth was a Tour best for the season and only one short of the all-time record, has had chances to win before and admits he has struggled with the mental side.

As a result his psychologist, a former international hurdler, advised turning his mind to other things when under pressure.

“I was looking at my thumb and wondering how it looked,” he said. “I was also trying to look at a tree or somebody in the audience to keep my mind at peace.”

It did not bring him victory, but from 135th on the European money list his Tour card is now safe for another season.

Ireland's Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy finished tied for 14th and 16th respectively, on -5 and -4.

Rookie Jonathan Caldwell, in contention earlier in the week, was 31st on one under.

Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal also finished down in 31st place and Montgomerie then announced that, because of fatigue, he was withdrawing from next week’s European Masters in Switzerland.

That is the first counting event for his Ryder Cup side and he says he will be watching “avidly.”

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