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Hanell Captures Maiden Title in Madeira
Sweden’s Christopher Hanell, playing his first event of the year, stood firm against the elements to become the fourth Swedish winner of the Madeira Island Open in 12 years, a closing 71 giving him a four under par total of 284 and one stroke victory over fellow Swede Steven Jeppesen, Australian Brad Kennedy and American Rob Rashell.              

Hanell, the 20th Swedish winner on The European Tour International Schedule, picked up two birdies and dropped only one stroke in his final round as strong winds and driving rain tore across the Santo da Serra course in the mountains of Madeira.

A birdie at the par three 17th took him clear of the pack and as he waited in the safety of the clubhouse, those left on the course were unable to match his total.

Four months ago Hanell, who follows Mats Lanner (1994, 1998), Jarmo Sandelin (1996) and Niclas Fasth (2000) into the winners’ enclosure in Madeira, was playing for the right to play on The European Tour and having successfully regained his playing privileges through the Qualifying School Finals and has made an immediate impression. His maiden victory in his 119th European Tour event ensures is now exempt for the next two seasons.

Victory earned him €100,000 and lifted him to 25th in the Volvo Order of Merit. He is also the 60th Challenge Tour player to win a European Tour title and the first of the 2003 Qualifying School graduates to win.

“This is my first start of the year so I am very happy,” said Hanell. “I’m excited about the year coming up. I have been excited about the year since the Tour School.

“Today it was as tough as this golf course gets. My second round of 67, which I finished on Saturday, really clinched it for me. That was as good as I can play. You are going to have some misjudgements but it was a great round. But if anything stands out about this week it was if I got in trouble it was never too bad and I got out of it. This makes huge difference for planning my year.”

Challenge Tour Member Kennedy came the closest to forcing a play-off, picking up three birdies in the space of four holes from the 13th to move into a tie for the lead, but for the second time that day, the final hole struck a cruel blow. Needing a par to tie, Kennedy, runner-up in Malaysia last month, found the rough on the right and his approach into the wind came up short in the bunker. A brave recovery left him with a five foot putt to tie but the ball refused to drop.

It was the second time the 18th had dealt him a blow as earlier in the day, as he completed his third round he mistakenly signed for an eight when, in fact he had taken a seven. Thinking he had taken a penalty drop rather then a free drop from a cart path, Kennedy miscounted and the mistake ultimately proved costly.

Nevertheless he regrouped, showing considerable mental fortitude to close with a one under par 71.

“I don’t want to bottle that 18th hole up and take it away from me that’s for sure,” he said. “But I have to try and learn from this and keep knocking on the door. That’s two seconds in a month. I really knuckled down. I knew I let myself down out there and wanted to dig down as deep as I could.”

Rashell, another Qualifying School graduate, birdied the 17th the lie on three under par playing the last and played a magnificent approach to ten feet but his birdie attempt to tie stayed above the hole for a closing 73. Similarly 19 year old Jeppesen, the third Qualifying School graduate in the top four who only turned professional on the eve of the Qualifying School Finals, birdied the 17th to give himself a chance but was also unable to make birdie and finished with a 76 for a three under par total of 285.

Courtesy of www.europeantour.com  

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