Garcia holds nerve to clinch Thai triumph and leap into world's top 10
SERGIO GARCIA tore a leaf out of Rory McIlroy's book and ensured his Christmas dinner would taste all the better by notching his first victory of 2013.
Garcia's win at the Thailand Golf Championship wasn't as much of a cliffhanger as McIlroy's final-hole eclipse of Adam Scott in the Australian Open -- the Spaniard finished four strokes clear of another of this year's top performers, Henrik Stenson.
With girlfriend Katharina Boehm on his bag, Garcia maintained his overnight lead with a comfortable final-round 68 at Amata Springs.
His first tournament success since the Iskandar Johor Open 12 months ago elevates Garcia nine places to 10th in the world rankings. He last figured in the global top 10 in December 2009.
Munich native Boehm, who last spring completed four years on a golf scholarship at the College of Charleston, was credited by Garcia (33) for a sterling week's work as caddie and motivator-in-chief.
"It's great to have her around this week and not just on the bag," he said. "She's a very positive person with a lot of good energy, that's what I love about her."
When it came to the crunch on 17 yesterday, Garcia counted on just one person, himself, as he faced a searching test of character.
The 17th green at Amata Spring floats (literally) in the middle of a lake. The challenge is similar to the penultimate hole at Sawgrass, where Garcia put two balls in the water last May on the way to a calamitous seven which cost him a share of the lead on Sunday at the Players Championship.
So the large gallery waited with bated breath yesterday for Garcia's telling tee-shot at 17. Yet he found the island with a smooth wedge on his way to the first of two finishing pars to wrap up a morale-boosting victory (and a $180,000 first prize).
Garcia took the lead on Friday with the first of back-to-back rounds of 65 and finished on 22-under, four ahead of Stenson (68). US Open champion Justin Rose (72) leapfrogged Phil Mickelson into world No 4 after tying fourth.
David Higgins followed a sweet second-round 64 with an even-par 70 in Durban on Saturday to earn €15,157 in 11th on eight-under at the 54-hole Nelson Mandela Championship, seven behind South African winner Dawie van der Walt (66). Damien McGrane (69) and Michael Hoey (72) earned €4,000 each in 50th place.
Des Smyth (75) and Denis O'Sullivan (76) shared 36th on five-over and banked €2,356 each at the MCB Championship in Mauritius. English former club pro Paul Wesselingh shot 69 to finish five clear on 14-under.