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History repeats itself in Crans-Montana

Ricardo Gonzalez had led since the opening day in Crans Keystone

For the second year running, the European Masters golf tournament in Crans-Montana has seen an Argentinian player take the winner's trophy ahead of a Dane.

Twelve months ago, it was Eduardo Romero who clinched the title, by a stunning 10 strokes. This time around it was Ricardo Gonzalez who was handed the SFr 380,000 winner’s cheque, after reaching the clubhouse with a slightly more modest three shot lead over Denmark’s Soren Hansen.

Sunday’s win was Gonzalez’s first on the European Tour, and one which could hardly have been more deserved following his performances in the blustery Swiss resort this weekend.

Surprise leader

A surprise leader after Thursday’s opening round, Gonzalez refused to allow his nearest rivals to draw close in the days that followed and confirmed his superiority with four birdies and just one bogey on the final day.

“This is my best ever win,” Gonzalez grinned on Sunday after an exuberant celebration on the 18th hole which had seen the Argentinian soaked in champagne and his caddie drenched in the nearby water hazard. “For an Argentinian it is especially important to be able to come here and win on the European Tour.”

American veteran Craig Stadler was another distant traveller featuring unexpectedly high on the Crans-Montana leaderboard, after only deciding to enter the competition as part of a European vacation.

The former US Masters champion looked set to challenge Gonzalez early on when he shot two birdies on the first two holes. But three bogeys around the turn dragged Stadler back to 11 under and joint third place, alongside Scotland’s Gary Orr.

Quiet end for big names

The tournament ended in quiet fashion for South African world number four Ernie Els, who came into the clubhouse at four under on Sunday, having only just made the cut two days previously.

Last season’s European number one Lee Westwood finished level with Els while Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros, a three-time champion here in Crans-Montana, was well out of contention at nine over par.

With a surprise winner and an impressively strong field, this year’s European Masters certainly lived up to its prestigious international reputation. From a domestic point of view the competition proved less satisfactory with none of the Swiss golfers managing to make the cut.

The tournament was also overshadowed on Friday by the announcement by Swiss number one Paolo Quirici that he plans to retire at the end of what has been a disappointing season for him on the European Tour.

by Mark Ledsom, Crans-Montana

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