Charl Schwartzel Charl Schwartzel wins 2007 Open de Espana in Madrid

South African golfer Charl Schwartzel came from behind to win the 2007 Open de Espana yesterday, ending a weekend of wild weather in Madrid, Spain, that saw play suspended several times.

Schwartzel posted a final round 67 to finish 16-under-par, one stroke up on Joti Randhawa of India, who had been the leader for most of the fourth round of play yesterday.

It was only Schwartzel's second win on the European PGA Tour, but the prize money - €333,330 - was good enough to vault him to No. 6 on the European Tour Order of Merit and into the World's top-50 rankings.

"I have always enjoyed playing in Spain in the past and have done pretty well here so I always felt my first win outside South Africa might come here and so it has turned out," Schwartzel told Europeantour.com

Rain and wind were the big stories this weekend in Madrid. Schwartzel and others had to finish their third rounds yesterday, after heavy rain suspended play on Saturday. Schwartzel finished the morning round with a double bogey on par-4 18th, dropping him three strokes behind Spaniard Carlos Rodiles.

Rodiles, who was trying to become the first Spaniard since Sergio Garcia in 2002 to win the Open de Espana, entered the afternoon fourth round the tournament leader by three strokes. But he failed to extend his lead, shooting an even par front nine.

Randhawa, on the other hand, stormed up the leaderboard with birdies at the first, sixth, seventh, eighth, 12th and 13th holes to take the tournament lead.

But Randhawa faltered slightly on the homestretch, and finished at 15-under-par.

Both Rodiles and Schwartzel were in striking distance, and it was Schwartzel who connected.

Schwartzel drove the green on the 360-yard par-4 13th, and made birdie. Three holes later, on the par-5 16th, Schwartzel hit an approach three iron from 235 yards to within 15 feet of the cup, and converted the putt for an eagle three to move him to 17-under-par.

"I had perfect yardage for my three iron at the 16th even though the shot was slightly into the wind," said Schwartzel. "But it felt the right club and I put a good swing on it. As soon as I had hit it, I knew it was going to be good."

He bogeyed the par-4 18th, after a pulled drive, but the eagle had given him a cushion. In the clubhouse at 16-under-par, all Schwartzel had to do was wait and see if Rodiles could rally.

The Spaniard tried, but missed opportunities, including a makable eagle putt on No. 16. He failed to birdie the par-3 17th, and faced with a must-birdie situation on the closing hole, Rodiles choked on his approach shot, pulling a low iron left of the green and burying it in the rough. That led to a bogey five, and Rodiles settled for third place.

April 30, 2007

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