A tired finish might have cost Michael Hoey up to €100,000 but the 35-year old was reflecting only on the positives of his new found consistency as he finished tied for eighth behind France’s Alexander Levy in the Volvo China Open.
The Belfast man started the final round 10 shots behind Levy and just outside the top 10. But after scorching around the front nine at Genzon Golf Club in five under 31 and then picking up further birdies at the 11th and 14th to find himself tied for third, he ran out of steam over the closing holes.
A double bogey five at the par-three 16th, where he pulled his tee shot well left into sand and then thinned his recovery through the other side, knocked the stuffing out of the five-time European Tour winner.
He was then forced to chip and putt just to par the par-five 17th but finished with a fatigued looking three-putt bogey from nearly 50 feet at the 18th after getting lucky when his approach caroomed off the grandstand onto the putting surface.
"I didn't feel good today, the sweat was lashing off me." said Hoey, who tied for eighth on 10 under after a closing 68 and earned €48,099.
"I knew it would be quite hard all day and towards the end I was getting really tired. I did throw the round away but I was trying my best and it looked worse than that.
"I couldn't quite keep it going and it's been a long, hot, two weeks. It was more energy than anything but there was some good golf and I will finish around about 10th when I could have been easily third or fourth. But still I would have taken it at the start of the week.
"It was a lucky break (to rebound off the stand onto the green at the 18th) but the concentration was going towards the end and the greens were difficult to read.
"It was a tough putt, downhill but quite slow into the grain. I couldn't quite control myself at the end and could have done that a bit better but I was trying and at least I was in a good position."
Ranked 34th in the Race to Dubai with €307,799 from 12 starts in the wraparound season, Hoey looked to the positives from his consistency this term having finished tied 18th in Malaysia last week and made every cut on the European Tour so far this year.
"Yeah, I just wanted to be consistent this year and I've been really consistent and haven't missed a cut and had quite a few top 15s and top 20s.
"We've lost a bit of weight these last two weeks so I am going home to recharge and try to get ready for the Spanish Open."
Levy fired a three-under-par 69 to win by four strokes, claiming his first professional title with a dominant performance that earned him €389,151 (and up to €38,000 for his Irish caddie Brian "Bo" Martin).
The 23-year-old never relinquished the lead after shooting a course-record 62 in Friday’s second round, finishing on 19 under par with England’s Tommy Fleetwood (68) was alone in second in the US$3.2 million event co-sanctioned by OneAsia and the European Tour.
Alvaro Quiros (72) finished two shots further behind in third on 13 under to pocket €146,166 with Francesco Molinari (67) in fourth on 12 under.
“I woke up very early this morning thinking about too much, but this is my life,” a delighted Levy said afterwards. “On the golf course I was only thinking about my job, and that’s why I’ve got the trophy in my hands.”
Levy went into the final round with a three-stroke lead that immediately stretched to four after Spaniard Alvaro Quiros bogeyed the first.
One group ahead, Fleetwood birdied the first three holes to give Levy something to think about, but he responded by picking up shots on six, 11 and 13 to lead by five at one point.
His only wobble came on the 15th when his drive found a divot hole, his second came-up well short, and he made double-bogey.
But a stunning second on the par-five 17th to ten feet for birdie, and an even better approach on the last for what was virtually a tap-in, saw him safely home.
"I closed my eyes and hit one of the best shots of the week. It was an amazing shot," he said of the 17th.
Fleetwood was also happy with his effort.
“I’ve been on a little bit of a dodgy stretch, so it’s nice to get myself up there again and get in the mix,” he said.
“I got off to the perfect start but just couldn’t drive it on the back nine. My strength all week has been my driving, and I didn’t hit it in play enough. But its been a fantastic week -- its come off for me.”
Without a win since 2011, Quiros feels his game is on the way back.
“The positive things for me are that I have been back in contention which I have only really been once in the past two years. I am happy to be where I am and I am now going to be going to the Spanish Open expecting big things.”
World No 3 Henrik Stenson (65) and Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter (67) shot their best rounds of the week to move up the leaderboard and share fifth place with Anders Hansen (63).
Suffering the effects of a stomach bug for much of the week, Stenson could have overtaken both Adam Scott and Tiger Woods in the world rankings to become World No 1 with a victory.
“It is very tight at the top at the moment but I am going to have to play a lot better than I have done on the early part of this year if I want to get to World No 1,” he said.
“It is a work in progress. It really feels like I have been starting to play a lot better over the past month and if I can keep working away then hopefully more good things will come.”
Poulter’s tournament was derailed by a two-shot penalty for taking an incorrect drop in the second round.
“I came here to win this golf tournament ... I felt it was a great opportunity,” he said. “Dropping five shots on Friday in two holes … it’s more than disappointing, it’s inexcusable. It put me too far behind and as much as I wanted to chase today, it was always going to be a tall order."
Irish positions in the Race to Dubai
- 14 Rory McIlroy €504,165
- 32 Graeme McDowell €322,263
- 34 Michael Hoey €307,799
- 80 Padraig Harrington €116,761
- 112 Darren Clarke €68,183
- 116 Kevin Phelan €64,940
- 118 Damien McGrane €64,183
- 139 Simon Thornton €53,693
- 161 Paul McGinley €26,252
- 164 David Higgins €22,612
- 187 Shane Lowry €14,063
- 203 Gareth Maybin €10,293
- N/A Peter Lawrie €0
Volvo China Open, Par 72, (7,145-yards) Shenzhen Genzon Golf Club
269 - Alexander Levy (France) 68-62-70-69.
273 - Tommy Fleetwood (England) 70-68-67-68.
275 - Alvaro Quiros (Spain) 67-68-68-72.
276 - Francesco Molinari (Italy) 70-70-69-67.
277 - Anders Hansen (Denmark) 73-68-73-63, Henrik Stenson (Sweden) 71-70-71-65, Ian Poulter (England) 69-74-67-67.
278 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Spain) 70-70-71-67, Michael Hoey (N. Ireland) 69-72-69-68, Andy Sullivan (England) 71-68-69-70, Simon Dyson (England) 67-71-69-71, Mikko Ilonen (Finland) 69-68-67-74.
279 - Eduardo De La Riva (Spain) 73-71-71-64, Hennie Otto (South Africa) 70-71-69-69.
280 - Jbe Kruger (South Africa) 74-67-72-67, Park Il-Hwan (Korea) 68-72-72-68, Nacho Elvira (Spain) 69-74-68-69, Chris Doak (Scotland) 71-68-70-71.
281 - Gregory Bourdy (France) 71-72-70-68, Morten ÿrum Madsen (Denmark) 73-68-71-69, Prom Meesawat (Thailand) 72-69-71-69, Julien Quesne (France) 69-71-70-71, Adrian Otaegui (Spain) 68-66-71-76.
282 - Danny Willett (England) 73-71-71-67, David Horsey (England) 68-76-70-68, Scott Jamieson (Scotland) 71-68-73-70, Emiliano Grillo (Argentina) 70-71-71-70, Scott Strange (Australia) 71-71-70-70, Mark Brown (New Zealand) 75-69-68-70, RaphaÎl Jacquelin (France) 69-67-75-71, Terry Pilkadaris (Australia) 73-71-67-71.
283 - Maximilian Kieffer (Germany) 73-71-69-70, Lee Slattery (England) 72-72-69-70, Richie Ramsay (Scotland) 69-68-74-72, Robert-Jan Derksen (Netherlands) 70-69-71-73.
284 - Ricardo Santos (Portugal) 71-73-74-66, Ouyang Zheng (China) 72-72-73-67, Pablo Larraz·bal (Spain) 71-70-72-71, Oliver Fisher (England) 73-70-69-72.
285 - Romain Wattel (France) 70-74-74-67, Tom Lewis (England) 72-69-74-70, Marco Crespi (Italy) 71-69-74-71, JosÈ-Filipe Lima (Portugal) 72-70-71-72, GrÈgory Havret (France) 70-73-70-72, Matthew Griffin (Australia) 71-73-69-72.
286 - David Drysdale (Scotland) 70-71-75-70, Marcel Siem (Germany) 71-69-75-71, Richard Bland (England) 69-75-71-71, Masahiro Kawamura (Japan) 73-69-72-72.
287 - Felipe Aguilar (Chile) 71-71-75-70, Wu Ashun (China) 69-74-73-71, Kang Ji-Man (Korea) 71-72-70-74, Li Hao-Tong (China) 73-69-67-78.
288 - Tyrrell Hatton (England) 68-71-75-74, Jason Dufner (USA) 73-71-69-75, Liang Wen-Chong (China) 70-74-69-75.
289 - Edoardo Molinari (Italy) 71-73-75-70, Eddie Pepperell (England) 70-72-75-72, Gaganjeet Bhullar (India) 71-70-73-75.
290 - Seve Benson (England) 74-69-76-71, Richard Green (Australia) 70-71-77-72, S¯ren Kjeldsen (Denmark) 72-72-72-74.
291 - Brett Rumford (Australia) 68-75-74-74.
292 - Jorge Campillo (Spain) 71-70-76-75.
293 - Simon Khan (England) 69-75-77-72, Stuart Manley (Wales) 70-74-74-75.
294 - Wu Kang-Chun (China) 73-70-76-75.
295 - Anthony Wall (England) 72-72-77-74.