You don’t need too many fingers to count the number of Austrian winners on the European Tour. In fact, you need only one hand. Before the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea, only two Austrians had won in Europe.
No wonder Bernd Wiesberger’s victory on Sunday came as such a surprise. Given the way Wiesberger took control in Korea, you’d have thought Austria was one of golf’s powerhouses.
The 26-year-old took a five-shot lead into the final round as he chased his first European Tour win. He gained that advantage with consecutive rounds of 65 in the second and third rounds after an opening 72. It was his tournament to lose.
Yet the Austrian held steady in the final round, even though players were taking a run at him. In fact, Wiesberger didn’t do much wrong over the final 59 holes. He didn’t drop a shot during that stretch.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay closed with a 7-under 65 to finish second, while Victor Dubuisson posted a 66 to place joint third with Australia’s Marcus Fraser. Wiesberger remained oblivious to their challenges.
“I just tried to enjoy it, and I had the three best rounds of my life,” Wiesberger said. “I tried not to make bogeys, and I did that pretty well. It was awesome.
“My game plan was to hit as many greens as possible and try to make putts, and they dropped in the end.
“I didn’t get nervous. There was a pretty shaky moment at 12, but I made a great chip and a putt for par, but I just tried to enjoy it the last three or four holes.”
Wiesberger won twice on the European Challenge Tour in 2010 to finish fifth on that money list and gain his European Tour card for 2011. He placed 64th on the Order of Merit last year, with two runner-up spots. He began this season with a ninth-place finish in the Joburg Open, but nothing since had indicated he was poised to him win at a tough course such as Blackstone Golf Club at Icheon, against a pretty good field.
Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele are the previous Austrian winners on the European Tour, with Brier winning twice and Wiegele once. Don’t be surprised, though, if the 6-foot-2-inch, 189-pound Wiesberger goes on to outdo his compatriots.
“He’s as impressive a golfer as I’ve ever seen,” Fraser said. “If he keeps working on the right things and doing what he’s doing, he’s obviously got a great support team around him, and he can go on to do whatever he wants. A guy that size and hits it that far and still putts unbelievably, you don’t see that too often. He’s got massive things ahead of him, and I wish him all the best. He’s an absolute gentleman on the course. It was great fun being out there and watching it.”
Wiesberger might just go on to put Austria on the golfing map.