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Westerberg seals victory on Kazakhstan links

Leif Westerberg of Sweden completed the “greatest day of my career” to win the richest European Challenge Tour event in history at the Kazakhstan Open and, as a result, secure his place on The 2008 European Tour.

Category: Other News
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Westerberg stood firm during a final round filled with drama and intensity to make a vital par four at Almaty’s Nurtau Golf Club’s testing 18th hole to post a level par 72 for a nine under winning total of 279 and a one stroke victory over playing partner Ross McGowan of England.

By picking up a cheque for €52,800, Westerberg made a huge leap at the business end of the Challenge Tour Rankings, moving to third place with season’s earnings of €96,138 to guarantee his place among the top 20 players who will be handed a European Tour card at the season ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in four weeks time.

Playing alongside McGowan and Scotland’s Eric Ramsay, who would finish the week in a tie for third place alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Westerberg held his nerve under the most intense scrutiny.

One behind McGowan at the start of the final round, the 33 year old Swede took the lead by turning in one under 35 to McGowan’s 37.

McGowan then suffered a horrible double bogey on the par five 13th as Westerberg birdied to establish a four shot lead, but there was more drama to unfold as Westerberg dropped a shot on the 14th and McGowan continued to fight back with a birdie on the 16t to cut the Swede’s lead to two strokes.

Both players negotiated the treacherous par five 17th nervously, with Westerberg pulling his second shot into the trees on the left, and McGowan finding the greenside bunker with his third shot.

Westerberg had no option but to hack out of the trees, and his failure to get up and down, coupled with McGowan’s brilliant recovery as he chipped in for par, meant that the lead was cut to one coming down the 18th.

Both players hit fine drives under pressure, with Westerberg standing firm to knock his approach onto the green, some 20 feet short of the flag. McGowan drew a great second shot pin high, 12 feet left of the cup, but after Westerberg tapped in for par the Englishman could not hole his birdie chance, leaving the Swede to celebrate a momentous victory.

“This is the greatest achievement of my career, without a doubt,” said Westerberg. “When my ball went into the bushes on 17 I was having all sorts of disastrous thoughts in my mind.

“I was very nervous coming through it all, but it was the same on the 18th and I managed to hold it together there and play a really solid approach, which was good enough to win.

“I am just so happy to have this tournament. With the prize money on offer here, the Kazakhstan Open is the tournament that I think every Challenge Tour player wants to win most, so I am delighted to have come through. “It means so much to me to have secured my European Tour card for next year. Now I have the chance to go on from here and maybe even win the Rankings if I can keep playing well. That’s the new goal.”