Marcel Siem couldn’t handle the pressure of trying to win his first European Tour event on home soil. Adrian Otaegui didn’t mind. He took advantage to win the $1.2 million Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play championship, his maiden European Tour victory.
The 37-year-old seemed to be cruising to his fifth European Tour victory after nine holes in front of home fans in Bad Griesbach, Germany. He was 3 up after playing the front nine in 3 under with birdies at the first, fourth and eighth holes.
Otaegui didn’t get out of second gear over the front nine. He played the outward half in even par, and was just trying to cling on. By the 17th hole, he was well and truly cruising in sixth gear.
Birdies at the 10th and 11th holes helped him cut the deficit to one hole before Siem made another birdie at the 13th. Then Otaegui went into overdrive as Siem tried hard just to stay on track.
Siem missed a short putt at the 14th to hand the 24-year-old Spaniard the hole. Otaegui hit a 7-iron to a foot at 15 to go all square. He took advantage of Siem’s twitchy putting stroke at 16 to go in front for the first time in the match. Siem missed a four-foot birdie putt and that seemed to signal the end.
It came at the par-3 17th when the Spaniard drained a 25-foot birdie putt for a surprise 2-and-1 win.
“The way I played the back nine after being three holes down, I’m just very happy,” Otaegui said. “I was very, very focussed.”
Otaegui picked up a check for $201,000 for his first European Tour win. It marked the culmination of a huge turnaround this year. The Spaniard only earned $42,600 for his first 14 events this year. He’s now earned $641,000 for his last six tournaments
“It’s just a big combination of things,” Otaegui said. “Getting some confidence and knowing I can do it well.”
Otaegui, who has been mentored by two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, moved from 58th to 41st on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Siem picked up $137,000 for finishing second. Sweden’s Johan Carlsson overcame 2003 NCAA champion Alejandro Canizares to finish third and earn $79,000. Canizares made $65,000.