15 September 2009
South African golfer James Kingston had missed four cuts in succession heading into the European Tour’s Mercedes-Benz Championship at Golf Club Gut Larchenhof in Cologne, Germany. He found form when it mattered, though, lifting the title on Sunday for his first overseas European Tour victory.
His first win on the Tour came on home soil in 2008, at the South African Open.
The lead changed numerous times during the final round as Kingston, England’s Simon Dyson and three Scandanavians, with similar sounding names – Denmark’s Anders and Søren Hanson, and Sweden’s Peter Hanson – vied for the title.
The win didn’t come easily for Kingston, who led by two shots with two to play. However, a three-putt on the 17th, and a birdie by Anders Hansen left the pair tied for the lead on 13-under-par 275 after rounds of 69 and 67 respectively.
He didn’t have to wait long to clinch the title as, on the first hole of the fourth playoff in the tournament’s history, Hansen failed to hole a shot from a bunker that he needed to force the playoff to a second hole.
With victory came a cheque of €320 000 for Kingston – worth approximately R3.49-million rand.
Race to Dubai standings
Importantly, it also vaulted Kingston from 116th place on the Race to Dubai (European Order of Merit) standings to 46th.
At the end of the season, the top 60 players on the European Tour rankings will contest the Dubai World Championships which boast a massive prize fund of $10-million. The top 15 finishers in that event will share the money.
Incredibly, Kingston didn’t know that he would have a place at the Mercedes-Benz Championship until only a few weeks before the tournament. He explained: “I spoke to the lady who does my travel arrangements and she asked what I was doing. I said I wasn’t playing and she replied: ‘What do you mean? You’re in’.
“I didn’t know at that stage. One minute you don’t even think you are playing, and the next you win it!
“It’s like the South African Open. I was injured a couple of days beforehand, and didn’t think I could play and I went on to win that. Two wins, and both of them unexpected.”
At 43 years of age, Kingston is the oldest winner on the European Tour this season. Bernhard Langer holds the Mercedes-Benz Championships record at 44 years old.
Three players finished within a shot of Kingston and Hansen on 276: Simon Dyson closed with a 70, Søren Hansen matched Dyson’s 70, and Peter Hanson closed with a 71.
Last year’s Nedbank Challenge champion Henrik Stenson was next on the leaderboard, tied for sixth with Anthony Wall on 10-under-par 278.
Further down the leaderboard, South Africa’s Hennie Otto finished strongly with a four-under-par 68 to end the tournament on four-under 284.
Charl Schwartzel posted a 71 and finished on one-under 287.
Thomas Aiken slipped to a 75, Trevor Immelman posted the same score, and Louis Oosthuizen went around in 74 as all three men finished on three-over 291.
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