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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The eagle has landed! Erik van Rooyen wins in style in Mexico

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South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen, inspired by a sick friend, rolled in a long eagle putt at the final hole to grab an emotional two-shot triumph Sunday in the US PGA Tour World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico.

Van Rooyen saved his best for last in claiming a second US tour title to go with his 2021 Barracuda Championship win.

He played the last five holes in five-under, playing the back nine in eight-under 28 on the way to a nine-under par 63 and a 27-under par total of 261 at Cardonal at Diamante in Los Cabos — the first Tiger Woods-designed course to be used for a PGA Tour event.

His walk-off eagle gave him a two-shot triumph over third-round co-leaders Matt Kuchar and Camilo Villegas.

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Bigger things in life than golf

“I was calm because there’s bigger stuff in life than golf,” said van Rooyen, breaking down in tears as he explained that dear friend Jon Trasamar is battling cancer.

“Every shot out there today was for him,” van Rooyen said. “When you’re playing for something bigger than winning some silly trophy it puts it in perspective and at the end of the day whether I won here or I lost here it really didn’t matter.”

One back to start the day, van Rooyen shook off an opening bogey, nabbing birdies at the second and sixth to get himself on track.

He added three straight birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th and another at 14 before birdies at 16 and 17 saw him pull level with overnight co-leader Kuchar atop the leaderboard at 25-under.

Kuchar started the day tied with Villegas after a rollercoaster round that included an eagle and a quadruple bogey. Six birdies had him atop the board trough 14 holes, but he couldn’t find another birdie the rest of the way.

He was joined on 25-under 263 by Villegas, who made two of his six birdies at 17 and 18 to claim his share of second.

American Justin Suh was fourth after a bogey-free seven-under par 65 for 264.

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Victory search continues for Villegas

The near miss left Colombia’s Villegas still looking for a fifth PGA title — nine years after he claimed his fourth.

Kuchar had been hoping a trip to Mexico would again see him end a victory drought. He claimed the last of his nine PGA titles at the 2019 Sony Open — a month after he ended a near four-year title drought at this event when it was held at Mayakoba.

Instead, it was van Rooyen in the winner’s circle at the fifth event of the FedEx Cup Fall, a series of seven tournaments played after the TOUR Championship that finalizes eligibility for the 2024 PGA tour season.

The win moves van Rooyen from 125th to 63rd in the FedEx Cup Fall standings and in good shape to retain his card for next year.

AFP

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