For the second time in three weeks—uniquely with a missed-cut in-between—Sam Horsfield is a winner on the European Tour. And for the second time in three weeks—with a tie for 56th in-between—Thomas Detry was second. Finishing in near-darkness after a downpour mixed with the threat of lightning caused a two-hour delay earlier in the day, Horsfield’s bogey-free closing round of 67 at Celtic Manor in Wales gave him an 18-under 266 total for the week and added the Celtic Classic title to the Hero Open he won a fortnight ago. Detry, who also shot 67, was two shots back, one more than was the case last time the pair went at it on the golf course.
Three men tied for third on 15 under par: Thomas Pieters, Detry’s fellow Belgian and the highest-ranked player in the field; overnight leader Connor Syme of Scotland; and the ever-popular figure of Englishman Andrew (Beef) Johnston.
In contrast with the immediate aftermath of his maiden victory on the European Tour, Horsfield was a lot more coherent on this occasion—and rightly proud of the fact that he had not dropped even one stroke to par after the triple-bogey 6 he made at the short 17th on Friday. There were, however, one or two moments of near crisis for the long-time Florida resident over the next 37 holes, especially down the stretch in the fast-fading gloaming.
A badly-pulled tee-shot off the 16th tee saw Horsfield playing from heavy rough, the ball well below his feet. A huge heave from there put him in a greenside bunker, from which he conjured up a beautiful recovery to no more than four feet. Par was saved. Likewise, from way left of the 17th green he was able to again get up-and-down, this time by way of a 18-foot putt that all but killed off any hope his rivals had of even a playoff. And Horsfield’s routine par on the 575-yard 18th confirmed that impression.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Horsfield, now a two-time winner on tour, who will move into the top 80 on the World Rankings and is guaranteed a spot in next month’s U.S. Open. “But I was a lot more relaxed this time. My goal this weekend was to have no bogeys. And I was able to do that. The putt on 17 to keep that alive was huge. But I was solid all week and it was nice to have that little cushion coming to the last.”
Winning so recently had benefits, too. Claiming to never feeling either nervous or uncomfortable, Horsfield, who is managed by Terry Munday, Ian Poulter’s long-time caddie, appeared outwardly calm even if the waywardness of those shots coming in betrayed at least some anxiety. Then again, his strategic thinking and course management was hard to fault.
“On [the driveable] 15th, I laid-up rather than go for the green,” he explained. “It was a perfect 3-wood number, but there is so much trouble around that green. The birdie on 14 was huge because it gave me that option. Had I been only one-ahead I probably would have gone for the green.”
Earlier in the day, incidentally, former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn completed what he called the “hardest thing I’ve ever done,” the roughly 130-mile trek from European Tour headquarters at Wentworth to Celtic Manor. Along the way during the four-day journey, the 49-year-old Dane generated much in the way of donations to UNICEF U.K. and the Golf Foundation. And, judging by his gradually deteriorating “pace of play” towards the end of his journey, nearly as many blisters.