The Volvo China Open was the second leg of a three-tournament stint for the European Tour in the Far East. It had a decent field, but the winner came out of the left-hand side of that field. Here are 5 Things you need to know about the latest European Tour event.
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1. ALEXANDER WHO? That’s the question many were no doubt asking after Frenchman Alexander Levy became the latest European Tour winner.
Levy built his victory on a sensational course record 10-under-par 62 in the second round. He added further scores of 70 and 69 for his first European Tour win and the €389,151 (about $540,000) first-place check.
Although he’s a French national, Levy was actually born in Orange, Calif., in 1990. The son of two pharmacists, Levy began playing golf at just three years of age before his parents moved back to France.
A close friend of Victor Dubuisson, Levy earned his first European Tour victory in just his 37th start. This season is only his second year on the European Tour after his rookie year.
There was nothing in Levy’s 2013 campaign to signal he’d enter the winner’s circle this year. He earned his European Tour card by finishing 17th on the 2012 Challenge Tour money list. He then did well in his rookie season to finish 109th on last year’s money list and keep his card, thanks mostly to a third-place finish in the BMW International.
The Volvo China Open is Levy’s first win as a professional since turning pro in 2010 off a plus-4 handicap. He’s the tournament’s first French winner, and the sixth-first time winner on the 2014 European Tour schedule.
Levy was 282nd in the world when he arrived in China. Victory should take him into the world top 140.
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2. FLEETWOOD CLOSER TO MASTERS SPOT: Tommy Fleetwood no doubt had Georgia on his mind while he was in contention to win his second European Tour title after last year’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Fleetwood put some pressure on Levy with a final-round 68. He got within one shot of the Frenchman at one point, but finished up four shots adrift in second place.
The 23-year-old Englishman made a trip to this year’s Masters before heading out to the Far East. He was a mere spectator at Augusta, but left vowing to return soon with an inside the ropes invitation.
Ranked 108th on the Official World Golf Ranking before the Volvo China Open, the former Walker Cup player needs to get into the world top 50 by the end of the season to earn an invite to next year’s Masters. If he keeps contending the way he did in Shenzhen, then he should have no problem playing his way to Augusta National.
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3. WELCOME BACK, ALVARO: Spain’s Alvaro Quiros posted his best finish in three years. He started the second round as joint leader before ending the tournament in solo third place. It’s a welcome return to form for the long-hitting Spaniard.
The affable Quiros won twice in 2011, picking up the Dubai Desert Classic and earning a United Arab Emirates double with victory in the lucrative Dubai World Championship, the finale to the European season. It gave him six wins in five European Tour seasons.
Those two 2011 victories earned Quiros a sixth-place finish on the European Tour’s order of merit. It moved him to a career high of 21st on the Official World Golf Ranking. There was talk of the Spaniard making his Ryder Cup debut the next season. Then he went missing in action.
From sixth on the money list, Quiros dropped to 73rd in 2012 and 104th in 2013. A perennial world top-50 player for much of 2010 and 2011, the Spaniard had dropped to 291st at the start of this season. He was 240th before his third place finish in China.
Most European Tour observers know Quiros is much better than his world ranking. Hopefully this is the start of his return to form.
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4. POULTER, STENSON SAVE BEST FOR LAST: Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson saved their best for last to justify the large appearance fees sponsors Volvo no doubt paid to lure them to China. Poulter looked like missing the cut at one point in the second round, while world number three Stenson played decent golf over the first three days before catching fire on Sunday.
Poulter opened with rounds of 69 and 74 before closing with back-to-back 67s. Stenson went 71-70-70, then threw in a final round 65. Both finished joint fifth.
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5. DYSON FADES AFTER SHARING EARLY LEAD: Shamed Simon Dyson shared the first-round lead with Quiros before fading during the next three rounds to finish in joint eighth place. The Englishman is on 18 months probation for illegally tapping down a spike mark during last year’s BMW Masters.
Dyson was given a suspended two-month ban and fined £30,000 for the misdemeanor. If he does not commit any infractions during the next year and a half, the threat of suspension is lifted.
The European Tour must be hoping Dyson’s sentence is carried out quietly. The Englishman has won six times during his career. The Tour must be dreading the awkward questions that will surely accompany his seventh victory.