MacKenzie Earns First Victory in 509th Start


European TourParis, France - Malcolm Mackenzie surrendered a three-shot lead late on the back nine before rebounding with a birdie at the final hole to capture his first European Tour title Sunday at the Open de France. The 40- year-old Englishman closed with an even-par 72 for a four-day total of 14- under 274, one stroke better than South Africa's Trevor Immelman.
Mackenzie, a journeyman golfer who has played full-time on tour since 1983, finally broke into the winner's circle in his 509th career start on the European circuit.
'It took 20 years to get to this little place, and I'm very happy,' he said. 'I've done it at last so I can relax now.'
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Mackenzie looked as if he would win handily after he holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole for a three-shot lead at 16-under par. But he hit his second shot into the water at the 15th en route to the first of three straight bogeys that dropped him back into a share of first place with Immelman.
Mackenzie on his win.
At the par-three 16th, Mackenzie's tee shot landed a long way from the hole but he managed to lag his first putt up to three feet. He stubbed his par attempt, however, leaving his ball six inches short of the cup. Then, after driving into good position at the 17th, Mackenzie caught his approach fat and left it 40 yards short of the green. His low pitch ran 25 feet past the cup and he two-putted for another bogey to slip to 13-under.
Immelman, playing in the group ahead of Mackenzie, made it to 13-under thanks to a 10-foot birdie putt at the 17th. He had a chance to take sole possession of the lead at the par-five 18th but missed a 12-footer for birdie. The 22- year-old finished with a final-round 72.
Mackenzie found the fairway at 18 but was faced with an awkward sidehill lie. He compensated by aiming a bit right then boldly struck a two-iron that finished within 20 feet of the hole.
'I've got to thank my caddie for that. He said, 'Go for it', so we did go for it,' Mackenzie said. 'I hit a great shot, the best two-iron of my life.'
Though his eagle try didn't fall, Mackenzie tapped in for birdie and the long- awaited victory.
Mackenzie collected 333,330 euro for the win, more than he made over the last two years combined, and nearly eight times the amount he earned for his fifth- place tie at the 1992 British Open at Muirfield. He vaulted from 146th place to seventh on the European Tour's 2002 Order of Merit.
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