WELSHMAN Jamie Donaldson held off the challenges of Bradley Dredge to win the D+D REAL Czech Masters and book a Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles next month
In need of a top-seven finish to secure a place on Paul McGinley’s European Team, the Welshman completed the task in style by claiming a third European Tour title at Albatross Golf Resort in Prague.
A four under par 68 saw him reverse a two shot deficit on compatriot Dredge by finishing with a 14 under total.
“This is big – it’s been an amazing week,” said Donaldson.
“I didn’t get here until late; I needed to play well either this week or next week, or both, to guarantee my place in The Ryder Cup Team so there was a lot on the line and this week I played really well, so that’s great.
“Winning is everything: wins shoot you up world rankings, Race To Dubai, all sorts. Its massive - those three last holes coming in there were really tough with the wind blowing, so I’m just really happy to seal it.
“It’s so difficult to get into the team, the lads are playing so well. You know that you have to play well to secure your place and it did come down to the wire. But that’s how it is to get into the team – I played as well as I can play for 18 months, and then a couple of slow events and you rocket down the list, so it’s great to come here and play so well and do enough to get into the team.”
Dredge finished as runner-up for a second week running on 12 under, but the two-time European Tour winner can console himself with the fact that earnings of €277,770 in the last fortnight will ensure he regains the playing card he lost in 2012 without question.
Donaldson started the day two shots behind Dredge, but two putted the long first, holed from 15 feet at the second and fired his tee shot to within two feet of the third pin for an opening hat-trick of birdies.
That gave the 38 year old the lead as Dredge three-putted the third, with Kjeldsen emerging as the main threat with close-range birdies at the second and third.
Donaldson’s drive at the fourth finished behind a tree and, after several club changes, the World Number 29 failed to find the fairway with his second and ran up a bogey.
That allowed Kjeldsen, who claimed the last of his three European Tour titles in Spain five years ago, to take the lead with a birdie from ten feet at the fifth.
Donaldson got back on level terms with a gain from ten feet at the sixth, and although Kjeldsen edged ahead again with a tee shot to six feet at the next, bogeys at the eighth and ninth handed the Welshman a one shot lead at the turn.
That swiftly became two with a birdie from 25 feet at the tenth, although Dredge and Kjeldsen matched his gain at the long 12th and the former chipped in at the 14th to stay in the hunt.
A bogey at the tricky penultimate hole didn’t prove costly for Donaldson as dredge also ran up a five after driving into the hazard, and a par at the last sealed an emphatic triumph.
Donaldson added: “I felt pretty good after yesterday; I’ve had a lot of birdies here all week. I’ve dropped too many shots, which stopped me from moving away a little bit, so today everything came together.
“I had a great first three holes and felt very relaxed. I just had to slow things down, take my time and allow myself to play good shots all the time, as opposed to some of the time – and that went my way and worked well and enabled me to win.”
Dredge signed for a round of 72 to finish one ahead of Kjeldsen and South African Merrick Bremner.
“Mixed feelings because again there was the chance to win there,” he said. “I had a two shot lead going into the last round.
“Both the guys got off to great starts today and I played nicely, but just didn’t putt as well today.
“I was trying to keep the pressure on and try to force the other guys into mistakes, but to be fair to Jamie he played great and I’m pleased he’s secured his place in the Ryder Cup.
“It’s been a great two weeks in terms of two seconds. Two firsts would’ve been better. Slightly disappointed I didn’t win one, but I’ll have a few more chances before the end of the year, and see how that goes.”
Another Ryder Cup hopeful, Stephen Gallacher, finished in a share of seventh after a 73 and is likely to need a good performance at next week’s Italian Open to sneak an automatic place via the world list.
“The week went pretty well – bit disappointed with today, I didn’t really play that well,” said Gallacher, “but top ten if you’re not firing is quite good.”
“My goal this week was to win it or try and finish as high up as I could – I was in contention in the second last group, if you then play well you can win, if you don’t and still finish top ten, then you’ve got it round well. I’m off to Italy, home for a couple of days and then I’ll be heading there.”