Tearful Verplank Triumphs in Byron Nelson Championship

An emotional Scott Verplank won the tournament that is closest to his heart when he triumphed at the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas.

Verplank had followed the PGA Tour event as a youngster and became the first golfer to win it after the death of the man it was named after, golfing legend Byron Nelson, who Verplank had considered a friend for 26 years.

After sinking the winning putt that beat England’s Luke Donald by one stroke, Verplank dropped to his knees with tears in his eyes and looked up to the heavens in thanks.

He said on the PGA Tour website:

“I’ve never been that light-headed and nervous and shaky over a putt in my life. I don’t know. You know what, Ryder Cup, nothing compared to that, to me. I mean, that was a lot of fun today, but … I don’t know, like I said, I was out of … it was an out-of-body experience.”

The 43-year-old Verplank, playing in his 21st Byron Nelson, closed with a four-under-par 66 for a four-round total of 13-under 267. Donald fired 68 to end up on 12-under 268 for the tournament.

Jerry Kelly, Rory Sabbatini, Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter were tied for third at 10-under-par overall.

As a promising young golfer, Verplank caught the eye of Nelson, who once invited him over to his house – an experience he would never forget.

“The living room just had a big easy chair, and the one whole wall just has all his trophies, The Masters trophy, the PGA trophy, just all these … I mean, it’s just incredible. So you’re just looking at it like a museum, looking at all the things that he did.”

Across the water in Europe, South African Charl Schwartzel stole the spotlight with his victory at the Open de Espana at the Centro Nacional de Golf near Madrid.

Schwartzel, 22, shot a final round of 67 for a 16-under total of 272, beating India’s Jyoti Randhawa by a single stroke with Spain’s Carlos Rodiles a further stroke behind.

The victory, his first since the 2005 Dunhill Championship, won him 333,330 euro and moved him up to sixth on the European Tour Order of Merit. He also broke into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.

He said on the European Tour website:

“I have always enjoyed playing in Spain in the past and have done pretty well here so I always felt my first win outside South Africa might come here and so it has turned out.”

Though Randhawa missed out, there was glory for India in Asia where Ghaurav Ghei won the Pine Valley Beijing Open. The Indian veteran shot a fourth-round three-under-par 69 to finish on 14-under 274, one stroke ahead of Australian Adam Blyth.

Ghei’s winner’s cheque of $79,250 lifted him to seventh on the Asian Tour’s UBS Order of Merit standings with a total of $189,164.

It was Ghei’s second triumph within a year following his victory at the Merucires Taiwan Masters in 2006.

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