Enigmatic Hoey takes field apart in Moscow
WINSTON CHURCHILL once described Russia as a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma", so there hardly could be a more appropriate winner of the M2M Russian Open than Michael Hoey.
This 34-year-old Ulsterman, one of Europe's most gloriously gifted but puzzlingly inconsistent golfers, romped to a four-stroke victory over Alexandre Kaleka of France and England's Matthew Nixon at Moscow's Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club.
Hoey wrapped up his fifth European Tour win, and ninth as a professional, with relative ease as he followed up Saturday's classy 65 with a polished two-under-par 70 on the vaunted Jack Nicklaus signature course.
Five ahead going into the final day, there seemed little doubt that a man of Hoey's ability and experience would finish the job.
Indeed, when one recalls how he birdied three of the final four holes at St Andrews in October 2011 to snatch the Dunhill Links title from under the nose of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, it's a mystery why Hoey hasn't rivalled his feted fellow Ulstermen in the Majors.
The Ballymoney native's results in 35 tournaments since his previous Tour win at the King Hassan II Trophy in March last year heavily underscores his enigmatic nature – not once did he finish in the top-10 in that stretch and made the cut on only 17 occasions.
Prior to Moscow, Hoey's best result this year was a share of 25th at January's Volvo Golf Champions. Though he missed the cut in seven of his previous 10 Tour events, nobody's even remotely surprised by yesterday's victory. That's just the nature of Michael Hoey.
"I'm not the most consistent player in the world but when I get into these positions I usually do okay," he said. "The next aim for me has to be to become a bit more consistent because that is the only way I'll be able to get back among the best players in the world and stay there."
His €166,660 winner's cheque lifted Hoey from 141st in the Race to Dubai past McIlroy to 81st. He's expected to go from just outside the top-300 to No 154 in today's world rankings.
Hoey – whose wife Beverly last month gave birth to their first child, daughter Erin – is Northern Ireland's 49th tournament winner since the European Tour officially came into existence in 1972 and the 96th by a golfer from this island.
"I've absolutely loved this golf course," said Hoey, who finished on 16-under-par. "It is a great Nicklaus design and one of the best we'll play on Tour this year. The greens are so pure and when you've surfaces like that you can make a lot of putts.
"Putting was key for me this week. I've worked on that a lot and the improvement shows because I'm making a lot of birdies.
"I did feel the pressure a bit today because I wasn't swinging it as freely as I'd done (on Saturday) but I got the job done in the end.
"Making my first birdie of the day on the seventh was a bit of a turning point because I had burned a few edges before that and you start to wonder if it is going to be your day."
Hoey's only slip yesterday was a bogey at 12. Though Kaleka got within two after back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16, the winner made a comfortable birdie four at 17, while his French rival dropped a shot at the last.
David Higgins and Gareth Shaw shared 51st place on three-over after final round 73s, banking €4,000 each.