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Jacobson Wins Dramatic Finale                    


Another year, another epic contest, another play-off in near darkness but this time a clear-cut champion at Club de Golf Valderrama as Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson defeated Carlos Rodiles of Spain to capture the Volvo Masters Andalucia.


The 2003 European Tour International Schedule produced a cliffhanging climax as Jacobson stubbornly refused to lie down and eventually triumphed over the equally resilient Rodiles at the fourth extra hole.

Twelve months earlier, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie shook hands as joint champions after a two-hole play-off was halted by darkness. On this occasion, the twilight lost out as Jacobson and Rodiles fought out arguably the most dramatic finish of a wonderful season.

Both players tied on 276, 12 under par, three shots ahead of England’s Brian Davis after the 71st and 72nd holes contrived to produce a finish where the tension on the course and behind the ropes was clearly palpable.

Davis shot a best of the day 66 to take third place by thre from fellow Englishman, John Bickerton, followed by Australia's Stephen Leanry and England's Greg Owen a further two adrift. Ultimately, though, they had to defer to the two main protagonists, Jacobson and Rodiles.

The famous – or infamous – 17th found another victim in the Swede, whose third shot spun into the water and the resulting double bogey to Rodiles’s chip and putt birdie meant that the local favourite held a two stroke lead going into the final hole. At some courses, the winner could start rehearsing his speech, but not at Valderrama.

Rodiles tugged his tee shot and had to settle for a bogey while Jacobson conjured up a towering nine iron from 138 metres to two and a half feet for the birdie which took the classic contest into extra time. Both had gone round in 70, and 72 holes had not been able to separate them.

A huge Spanish contingent had turned out in bright sunshine to cheer on the man from Malaga and they were rewarded with a glorious end to the Volvo Order of Merit race. If the build up to the play-off was dramatic, it was merely a prelude to even greater tension.

Jacobson, who had led all the way from an opening 64 (he is the first player to win the Volvo Masters Andalucia from start to finish) hit his drive at the first play-off hole, the 18th, behind a tree but the miracle worker from the home of the Volvo squirted an eight iron to the first cut of rough behind the green.

He chipped and putted for a par, which was matched by Rodiles and, like a pair of swaggering western gunslingers, they rode back into the sunset to play the 18th once again.

Rodiles held the whip hand with a superb approach to six feet. Jacobson chipped and putted from the side of the green this time and Rodiles hit a sweet putt which didn’t take any break and stayed above ground.

Now darkness was falling fast as the pair went to the tenth tee. Jacobson’s three wood landed inches away from the pond on the right of the fairway but from there he made a par four, which Rodiles also matched after a solid second.

Memories of the 2002 stalemate were fast resurfacing when the players went back to play the 18th for the fifth time of the day – the first being at breakfast time when they completed their delayed third rounds.

However another immaculate eight iron to six feet ensured Jacobson would do no worse than par, and when Rodiles could only chip from the trees sideways and lay 30 feet away in three shots, the contest was effectively over. The Swede used both his putts for par and punched the air triumphantly.

“It was a really, really tough battle out there with Carlos” said a delighted Jacobson. “It has been quite unbelievable the way the story went up and down with my leading for a while then Carlos going in front. It was quite hard to stay in the battle.”

Victory meant that Jacobson is the first Swede to win three titles in one season in Europe – a feat only Ernie Els has bettered this season. The €583,330 first prize helped him climb to fourth on the final Volvo Order of Merit table, emulating the feat of fellow countryman, Anders Forsbrand, 11 years earlier. No Swede has finishied higher.

It also carried the 29 year old into second place on the European Ryder Cup Points List with 705,423, second only to Lee Westwood going into the winter break. He added: “I am into all the Majors now but I want to get into the Ryder Cup. That’s one of my main goals and I’m getting close to it.”

Rodiles won €388,880 to finished in 24th place on the Volvo Order of Merit at the end of a season where he has grown in stature and become a potential champion on The European Tour.

He said: “It’s been a long and emotional day. I had plenty of chances but in the end I didn’t win. My most important weapon, the putter, didn’t do it for me. Coming down the 18th first time around I felt inside that I had the tournament but in golf you can never be sure until the last putt drops.

“A win would have meant many things for me – the top 20 on the Volvo Order of Merit and the chance to play in the Majors. I played really well and I was in the best situation, but in this sport we have often seen people come back after being down and out.”

At the conclusion of a marvelous tournament and a long but rewarding season on The European Tour, the honour of being Volvo Order of Merit winner went to South African Ernie Els, with Irishman Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington filling the next two places.

Michael Campbell of New Zealand filled 15th place on the Volvo Order of Merit, the final position to secure automatic entry into the US Open Championship next year. Raphael Jacquelin of France claimed 20th place on the Volvo Order of Merit and ensured he will play in the Open Golf Championship – further proof, it is was needed, as to the value of the Volvo Order of Merit.

A total of 14 players earned in excess of €1,000,000 during the 2003 season and there were 17 first-time winners. Incredibly, the top 48 on the Volvo Order of Merit all collected more than €500,000 and the 117th and final all exempt card, when went to Iain Pyman of England, was claimed with €162,099.   


Courtesy of: www.europeantour.com

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