Sport Golf

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Stunning victory for rookie Lewis

England's rookie professional Tom Lewis poses with the trophy after his two-shot victory in the Portugal Masters at Oceanico Victoria Golf Course yesterday
England's rookie professional Tom Lewis poses with the trophy after his two-shot victory in the Portugal Masters at Oceanico Victoria Golf Course yesterday

Bernie McGuire, in Vilamoura

Rookie professional Tom Lewis equalled Alejandro Canizares' European Tour record when claiming a maiden victory on only his third start in the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura yesterday.

Spainiard Canizares also won in his third pro event when he captured 2006 Russian Open.

The 20-year-old Lewis, who turned pro last month after being a member of the victorious GB & I Walker Cup side, carded a final round 65, which included four birdies in succession from the 14th hole, to win by two strokes with a 21-under-par tally. Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello (71) finished second on 19-under.

Even Tiger Woods at his pomp had to wait until his fifth PGA Tour event to secure his first title as a pro in late 1996, while Lewis has also upstaged his idol Rory McIlroy, who captured the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic in his 42nd Tour event.

"Rory is my idol. He's a great player and I would like to be like him one day," said Lewis.

"The good thing with Rory is that he is around my age and I can see what a good player he is and what people think of him.

"He's a really nice guy and he and the other players out here have also been really nice and helpful to me in easing me into the routine.

"Hopefully, now that I am a full member of the Tour, I can get to know Rory a whole lot better."

One of the first to congratulate Lewis was European Tour CEO, George O'Grady who remarked: "Tom, well done and welcome to the European Tour."

Lewis shot to stardom when sharing the lead on the opening day of this year's British Open with a similar 65 being the lowest single-round score by an amateur in the 140th staging of golf's oldest Major.

In fact, Lewis played the opening two Royal St George's rounds with eight-time Major winner, Tom Watson, whom he was named after.

The only person Lewis didn't thank in his victory speech was Bray caddy, Colin Byrne. "I'm gutted I didn't mention Colin's name, but I will make it up to him," said Lewis.

Peter Lawrie headed the Irish challenge, birdieing his opening four holes in a 66 for a share of 11th place at 16-under.

"It's not a bad finish, a 66," said Lawrie. "I got off to a great start with four birdies in a row, so after playing four rounds of the Dunhill and having a week off, and now shooting 16-under par -- it's pretty encouraging."

Lawrie moved up five places to 55th on the 'Race To Dubai', but a disappointed Shane Lowry remains two spots outside the top 60 in 62nd place after a last-day 69 for a 15-under-par tally.

"I putted horrifically today and that cost me any chance in the tournament," he said. "I had two really bad three-putts out there and six-under on the weekend on a golf course like this is not good enough."

Padraig Harrington shared 16th place with Lowry after a closing round 68 and jumped four places to 67th in his quest to contest the season-ending Dubai World Championship. But Harrington has failed to qualify for next month's WGC -- HSBC Champions event in Shanghai by failing to break back into the world's top-25.

"It was a hard task to achieve and no, I'm not disappointed," he said.

Other Irish scores included Gareth Maybin (72) at nine-under, Damien McGrane (75) at five-under, while Gary Murphy (74) was at the back of the field on seven-over-par.

* After firing a closing-round 63 for a four-round total of 15-under, Amercian Ben Crane held his nerve to beat Webb Simpson on the second play-off hole to secure victory in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island.

Irish Independent

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