Sweden’s Alexander Bjork hailed the best round of his career after securing his first European Tour title at the Volvo China Open in Beijing.
Bjork carded seven birdies in a flawless closing 65 at Topwin Golf and Country Club to finish 18 under par, a shot ahead of Spain’s Adrian Otaegui.
Otaegui was left to rue a three-putt bogey on the 17th, although a birdie on the last sealed outright second ahead of compatriot Jorge Campillo and the English pair of Matt Wallace and Jordan Smith.
Bjork began the day a shot behind Wallace and Otaegui, but made an ideal start with a birdie on the first and picked up further shots on the fourth and eighth to reach the turn in 33.
The 27-year-old also birdied the 11th, 12th and 15th to move ahead of clubhouse leader Smith, who had surged through the field with a superb 64, before a birdie on the 17th capped a nerveless display.
“It’s tough to describe the emotions,” Bjork told Sky Sports. “I’m really, really happy, really proud of myself the way I played today.
“It’s probably one of the best rounds of golf I’ve ever played, I would say the best round given the situation. I made pretty much no mistakes today so I’m super happy.
“I had a really good feeling this morning actually. I was less nervous than I usually am before a really big final round. I felt confident almost all the way so I guess it was just meant to be.
“I didn’t look (at leaderboards) too much the first nine holes but from 12 I knew I was up in the lead, but then I saw a guy had finished on 16 under and I knew I needed to make birdies. That actually helped me to stay positive instead of playing safe.
“I just lost out in Hong Kong in the first tournament of the season with a bad finish and I was close last week (in the Hassan Trophy) so it was my turn today and I’m so happy for that.”
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington has declared his interest in captaining Europe at the 2020 Ryder Cup.
Harrington has played in six European Ryder Cup teams and has been a vice-captain under Paul McGinley in 2014 and Darren Clarke two years later.
The 46-year-old is expected to be named by current European skipper Thomas Bjorn as a vice-captain for the next edition of the Ryder Cup against the United States in France in September.
But Harrington has his sights set on being Europe’s captain for the 2020 tournament, especially because he would be aged 55 by the 2026 Ryder Cup.
He believes it would be too risky to wait until then, given he would be a good many years away from the main European Tour.
“I would love to be a Ryder Cup Captain down the road,” Harrington told reporters on Tuesday.
“I see my game at the moment that putting my name in the ring to be Ryder Cup Captain is coming sooner rather than later as it does not look like I will be playing my way into this year’s team.
“But as regards to 2026, it’s too late for me to wait. It would be too much of a risk.
“I would be somewhat out-of-touch with players by 2026 and there would a lot of good players coming on the scene by 2026.”
Harrington has the pedigree to lead Europe’s top stars after winning two British Open titles and the PGA Championship during his career.
The 2020 Ryder Cup is to be staged at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and it would pit Harrington possibly up against the likes of England’s Lee Westwood and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie for the captaincy.
“There is good players who are playing now who will be looking for the captaincy in 2026,” Harrington added.
“It would me creating a risk that I might not get the job.
“So, I don’t think I will be waiting around for 2026 as much as I would love to be the captain in Ireland but I think the risk would far outweigh the reward of waiting.
“It would be just good timing for me in terms of my career to be the captain in 2020.”
Patrick Reed’s win at Augusta National on Sunday was the latest in a scintillating run of success for American golf.
The 26-year-old’s triumph means all four majors are currently held by American players, and all under the age of 27 – with six of the world’s top 11 players also coming from across the pond.
American golf is certainly making a splash.
Brooks Koepka (27), Jordan Spieth (24) and Justin Thomas (24) hold the US Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship trophies – with world number six Rickie Fowler yet to win but consistently proving he can challenge at the top of the leaderboard.
At 29, Fowler may be the oldest of the five players but has shown he has the quality, nerve and skillset to win a major – shooting a final round 67 at the Masters to finish one shot behind eventual winner Reed on 15-under-par.
If you contrast America’s rise to Europe’s, no big player has kicked in the same way, apart from world number three Jon Rahm who sealed a fourth place finish at Augusta and won the CareerBuilder Challenge in January.
Of course, there are stars like Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick continuing to shine on the European Tour, but none have really thrived at a major.
Maybe it’s the college and amateur tour in America that has instilled this strength and talent in youngsters, with players like Bryson DeChambeau (24) and Thomas coming straight out of university and competing against marquee names.
Although DeChambeau may not have placed inside the top-10 at Majors – with two top-25 finishes at the Masters and US Open – he is still a thrilling prospect who has the chance to light up the world stage for the next decade.
In Dustin Johnson, America have the best player in the word. Despite not winning a major since the US Open in 2016, DJ has had the rest of the field dancing to his own tune for over 60 weeks – holding a grip on top spot since February 2017.
Johnson may be an elder lemon at 33 but has proven his consistency week in week out – with Rahm and Thomas coming closest to dethroning his long run.
There’s no doubt that Fowler, Thomas, Koepka and Reed will continue to win tournaments and challenge at Majors, with hope of other youngsters stepping up at various points of the year.
On talent alone, Spieth is the driving force of golf in the States for the foreseeable future.
Putting may not be his strongest suit at the moment (he is currently ranked 185th on strokes gained: putting on the PGA Tour), but the Texan has the composure, confidence and in-game intelligence to be a menace at the big events.
In a time where golf seems to be relying on the much-heralded and hoped for ‘return of Tiger Woods’ to bail them out of the general disinterest shown towards the sport, they need to look at a figure like Spieth as their true saviour.
He may not be the most exciting character to listen to in post-round interviews but he’s 24, consistent and has already won three majors in three years – with another five top-5 finishes to add to that since 2014.
It’s a healthy argument to have and definitely adds to the interest ahead of not only the other three Major championships over the next four months but the Ryder Cup at the end of September in Paris.
American golf is in a dominant place.