An unlikely winner in the form of Belgian golfer Nicolas Colsaerts emerged victorious in the Volvo China Open at Luxehills International Country Club on Sunday, finishing on an impressive 24 under par. It was the first time China's most prestigious golf tournament had been held in Chengdu, but it also proved to be a first for Colsaerts, who grabbed the first European Tour victory of his career.
The Belgian barely put a foot wrong from start to finish. The 28-year-old consistently recorded steady rounds, scoring 65, 67, 66 and another 66 in the final round to cap off a terrific week of golf. Colsaerts showed remarkable composure going into the final round, which he began with a mere one-shot lead over Korean Han Chang-won. But he immediately set aside his inevitably jangling nerves with a birdie on the first hole. From then on he coasted to victory with five more birdies without a single bogie, not just maintaining but extending his lead over the rest of the field by 4 shots. Pablo Martin (ESP), Danny Lee (NZL), Soren Kjeldsen and Peter Lawrie (IRL) all tied for second place, having scored well on the final day, but always remained adrift of Colsaerts, who never looked to be relinquishing his lead.
The victory at the Volvo China Open completed a remarkable redemption story for Colsaerts who only a year ago regained his European Tour card after enduring a two-year period when he failed to qualify. A dramatic change in fortune that he put down to a spell in Australia. "It was a way of getting away from the situation that I was in at the time ... and spending four months away from home was the best thing I could have done, getting away from the dark scene," he said at Luxehills.
The tournament threw up a few surprises along the way. Padraig Harrington and last year's winner Y.E. Yang were two high-profile casualties that failed to make the cut at 5 under par, in a low-scoring week at Luxehills.
Another big name and Volvo China Open debutant, Sergio Garcia, enjoyed a positive introduction to the tournament, scoring a 66 and a 67 that left him well positioned and just one shot behind the leaders after two rounds. But the Spaniard slipped away from contention with a mediocre third round score of 72. Garcia ended up finishing 14 under par and 10 shots behind the eventual winner.
Unfortunately for the home fans, none of the Chinese competitors were able to seriously contest for the title this year. Zhang Lianwei provided the sternest challenge, finishing 12 under, and tied with nine other golfers in 31st place.
It did, however, prove to be a positive week for Luxehills International Country Club and for the city of Chengdu, which successfully hosted this international golfing event—made even more impressive by the fact that the course at Luxehills is only four years in the making. Colsaerts also paid tribute to the groundsmen, who he said kept the greens in the best condition the players had come across on this year's European Tour.
Attendance, along with the weather, improved as the tournament progressed into the weekend, with a reported 20,000-plus golf fans flocking to the course in total. It was an event that will raise Chengdu's profile in the world of golf, and golf as a burgeoning sport in China.