Thomas Aiken won the Spanish Open on Sunday and dedicated his maiden European Tour victory to Seve Ballesteros.
The 27-year-old South African closed with a two-under 70 for a 10-under 278 four-round total at El Prat that left him two strokes better than experienced Anders Hansen of Denmark (70).
“Seve was an inspiration to us all and we were all out there trying to win it for him,” Aiken told reporters, referring to the Spanish five-time major champion who died of brain cancer on Saturday at the age of 54.
“No matter who had won today, I think they would have wanted to dedicate the win to Seve,” added Aiken after breaking his tour duck in his fourth full year.
The leader for the second and third rounds, Aiken was never headed as his faultless two-under front nine kept the field at bay.
He then stayed cool when he made mistakes coming home, to finally prevail after third, fifth, sixth and seventh places this season and a runner-up finish last year.
His playing partner Hansen, twice a winner of the European Tour’s flagship PGA event at Wentworth, had been expected to be Aiken’s chief threat, but the Dane stalled over the first eight holes with pars.
After collecting the trophy and a prize of nearly US$500,000, Aiken said he was proud to win the last career title that Ballesteros had claimed.
“To know my name is going on the trophy alongside Seve’s is really special,” he said.
Aiken was also inspired by the achievements of compatriots Charl Schwartzel, the recent US Masters champion, and last year’s winner of The Open Louis Oosthuizen.
“They played great and it definitely spurs you on,” Aiken said. “To follow Louis by first winning in Spain as he did last year and then going on to win the British Open, would be extremely nice.”
Local favorite and El Prat club member Pablo Larrazabal (71) was another player expected to run Aiken close, but the Spaniard’s double-bogey on the fourth left him playing catch-up and he had to settle for a tie for third place, three strokes adrift of Aiken.
Rookie Briton Scott Jamieson (71), the first-round leader, shared third place after late birdies, but a closing bogey by last year’s US Open runner-up, Gregory Havret (70), relegated the Frenchman to a tie for fifth place, four behind Aiken.