Bezuidenhout seals stunning Valderrama victory
• The young South African star shines at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters
• 5 Spaniards in the top 7 of the event
• Adri Arnaus qualifies for the Open Championship
Christiaan Bezuidenhout won his first European Tour title in emphatic style with a six shot victory at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation. The South African came into the final day at Real Club Valderrama with a five shot lead and while he saw that trimmed to three at one point, a closing 71 saw him finish at ten under par, to become only the third different player to lift the trophy after Graeme McDowell (2010), and tournament host Sergio Garcia (2011, 2017, 2018).
The victory also secures Bezuidenhout a Major Championship debut at The Open in two weeks, alongside Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and local favourite Adri Arnaus.
Bezuidenhout's victory completes a remarkable rise for a player who has had to overcome adversity since a young age. At the age of two he mistakenly drank rat poison, an incident that led to him developing a stammer that caused him to suffer anxiety.
The beta blockers he took to combat his stammer led to him failing a doping test at the 2014 Amateur Championship and while his two year ban was reduced to nine months after officials adjudged he had not been seeking to gain a competitive advantage, he missed out on representing his country at the Eisenhower Trophy.
Now five years on from those dark days, he is a European Tour winner in his 57th appearance and moves into the top ten of the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex after two other top three finishes this season.
Spaniards Eduardo de la Riva, Alvaro Quiros and Jon Rahm finished alongside Arnaus and Lorenzo-Vera at four under par in a five way tie for second place.
Garcia was then at three under par, with Europe's 2018 Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn, Belgian Thomas Detry, Gavin Green of Malaysia, German Bernd Ritthammer and Hideto Tanihara of Japan one shot further back.
"I was relieved, it was a long day. I went through a struggle in the middle of the round, three bogies in a row. I thought, I can't let it slip. My caddie kept me in the moment nicely and the par save on the eighth hole was crucial. It just got the momentum going that I had lost a bit.
"To bounce back with three birdies in a row after that was nice and it settled the nerves a bit. To come out with a win today is special.
"My family have kept me humble throughout my career, they've supported me and thanks to them. I'm here because of them, it's so special.
"It's been a dream since I started playing golf to play in a Major Championship, and to play The Open, which is my favourite Major, just makes it even more special."
"It was an honour to play two days in a row with Sergio in such as iconic place as Valderrama. Yesterday I started a bit nervous, but I calmed down after four holes and I started to enjoy it, and we got along so well.
"Today was more like being on my own, and I was able to do it on that back nine, so I'm really pleased. I was trying to put a score out there as low as I could, but I saw that he's playing so well it would be tough to put a little pressure on him, so I just tried to focus on me.
"All week the place in The Open is what I came here for. It's just an incredible feeling to come out here on home soil, play well, and get one of those spots."
"I knew that If I wanted to give myself a chance to play in The Open I needed to make par on the last, but I hooked that three wood. I hit a good wedge, but the green was an absolute rock. I had to make that putt, I gave it a chance and I made it.
"My objective at the beginning of the season was to play two Majors. I played the US PGA Championship and I absolutely needed this one, so that could be great for my mind."
"As wonderful as it is, it's always difficult to play on home soil. It's hard to keep my own expectations in check.
"It's all about Christiaan today; he played a wonderful round of golf. He played an amazing tournament; ten under par this week in Valderrama is no joke.
"Playing in front of a home crowd increases my wanting to win the tournament. You've got to focus in yourself and keep it to yourself, but every time I went from the green to the tee the support was unbelievable and at the end it's really hard to not let that through."
"It was a very solid week. You've got to be realistic, I feel like I played probably the best I played all year, but I made two putts all week which didn't help. Taking that into account, finishing sixth shows how well I hit the ball. That's very positive, and that's what I'm taking.
"It's been a great tournament for my foundation, and it's been fun. Every year we seem to be coming up with things to raise more money and that's nice. Just to be able to help some people is very fulfilling and a great feeling to have."
The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation, an event in the European Tour's Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by EU and declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Spanish Government. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Dubai Duty Free, Rolex, Exterior Plus, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande, Santander Private Banking and Shell. Callaway, Coca-Cola, Enterprise, Grupo Raga, ISDIN, Korporate Technologies Group, Marca, Maui Jim, el Hospital QuirónSalud Campo de Gibraltar, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf and Volvo are official suppliers. 5J, Gadira, Grupo Joly and Varma collaborate in the event as well.