2003: Foster logs first victory, survives six-man playoff
Johannesburg, South Africa
They say it’s lonely at the top, but that didn’t apply to Mark Foster’s first victory on the PGA European Tour.
Foster had plenty of company when he won the Dunhill Championship Jan. 19, surviving the Tour’s first six-man playoff since 1990 to win with a 35-foot eagle putt on the second extra hole.
Foster beat Paul Lawrie, Bradford Vaughan, Trevor Immelman, Doug McGuigan and Anders Hansen in the first six-man playoff on the European Tour since the Vinho Verde Atlantic Open 13 years ago in Portugal. The 27-year-old Englishman nearly withdrew Sunday morning because of a stomach virus, but his constitution was hale enough to get through the crowded playoff.
“I was wilting a bit near the end but made sure I kept going at the second extra hole,” Foster said.
Foster closed with a 4-under 68 and finished at 15-under 273. Hansen and McGuigan were eliminated on the first playoff hole after making par.
Immelman, coming off his first European Tour victory a week earlier at the South African Open, narrowly missed a chip-in for eagle that would have given him victory on the first playoff hole.
“The chip was right on line but just an inch or two short,” Immelman said.
Foster’s triumph comes after several years of struggles. After an amateur career that included membership on a victorious Walker Cup team (with Padraig Harrington, Stephen Gallacher and David Howell) in 1995, and English Amateur Championships in 1994 and 1995, success at the professional level took considerable time.
Foster played one European Tour event in 1994, eight in 1997 and three apiece in 2000 and 2001 without making a cut. After finishing No. 1 on the Challenge Tour in 2001, he finally made a European Tour cut in his second start in 2002, finishing fourth at the Hong Kong Open. He made 14 cuts in 28 starts on the European Tour last year, with his best finish a tie for second at the Dunhill Championship.
“People have said I’m a slow learner but I’ve finally caught the boat,” Foster said.
Foster, like Lee Westwood, a native of Worksop, first earned his card in 1996, but his inaugural season was limited to eight events because of surgery for back abscesses. So, even though Foster finished just 93rd on the Order of Merit in 2002, it represented a major step toward return to form.
And, Sunday in Johannesburg, he took his biggest step yet.
– Staff and wire reports