Mortimer's Hollywood finale secures his second PGA title
THE eagle certainly landed for David Mortimer yesterday as the Ladbrokes PGA Irish Championship came to an astonishing climax.
Mortimer (35), from Renvyle in Co Galway, holed out in spectacular fashion from just off the final green at Seapoint to complete a stunning one-stroke win over European Tour ace Damien McGrane.
Yet both men deserve credit for fashioning a rip-roaring finish worthy of the 100th edition of this august championship. Moments before Mortimer applied the coup de grace, McGrane hit the hole with a phenomenal 30-yard chip for an eagle three of his own -- instead, his ball rolled around the rim of the cup and out, leaving the Kells man with a tap-in birdie.
Then up stepped Mortimer, hitting a superlative 40-foot putt through the fringe grass and onto the green, his eyes widening with excitement as it curled left to right, homing in on the cup. As his ball disappeared, Mortimer, all 6ft4in of him, leapt high into the air and then bounded onto the green after it, in such exultation we half-expected him to pull his charcoal grey jumper over his head.
Instead, he was intercepted by caddie John Frazer, who then lifted the Connemara giant clean off the ground. Frazer had carried the bag when Mortimer had birdied the last to win the Irish PGA title at Druids Heath in 2006 ... but yesterday was special as hundreds of fans were treated to the sort of finish they dream of only in Hollywood.
Mortimer had led McGrane -- and Damien Mooney -- by one overnight but they were level on nine-under after 17 holes yesterday (two ahead of third-placed John Kelly of St Margaret's). So they it was mano-a-mano down the last for the title.
This was match play in all but name, a perfect pipe-opener to Ryder Cup week. Indeed, if the action at Celtic Manor is as good as this, we're in for a real treat. For the record, they both signed for a final-round 68 yesterday.
Mortimer had ranked his win at last month's Glenmuir Club Professional Championship of Great Britain and Ireland as the biggest of his career until yesterday, when he became the first man to win both titles in the same season.
"This is the highlight," he said. "This is the best one for how it finished and who I was playing against. The last time I won it in 2006, with no disrespect to anyone, we didn't have the Tour players taking part."
Mortimer extended heartfelt thanks to his fiancée Samantha Keane, coach Shane O'Grady, mind-guru Fran O'Reilly and, significantly, McGrane. Drawn together in the first two rounds, McGrane offered Mortimer a piece of friendly advice as they walked down the 12th hole last Thursday ... and he put it to good use over the weekend. "I mentioned to Damien about the guys from the Irish Region who play in the Irish Open and he said a lot of them go out trying not to make mistakes, yet you're not going to be competitive if you're trying to keep bogeys off your card," Mortimer explained.
"It occurred to me I was doing exactly the same thing, laying back and watching what Damien was doing. So I made up my mind to play my own game," added Mortimer, who has made it through to November's second stage European Tour Q-School.
"David's a good player, he just needed to believe it," said McGrane. "He scored well every day at this tournament and provided a spectacular finish for the spectators, so he's a great champion. Fair play to him. I played lovely from tee to green all week but struggled to score. I've always wanted to win this championship. My chance will come another day."
A final-round 72 left Belfast boomer Mooney tied fourth with GUI national coach Neil Manchip, who got "a real buzz" out of playing his first 72-hole event in four years.
Manchip's star pupil Shane Lowry finished 16th on three-over and vowed to work on his putting before next week's Dunhill Links. Des Smyth, co-designer of Seapoint with Declan Brannigan, closed with 75 for a share of 14th on two-over.