Aiken wins Spanish Open by two, dedicates his victory to Ballesteros

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After six wins in his native South Africa, Thomas Aiken earned his first European Tour victory on Sunday in Spain.
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PA Sport

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Published: Sunday, May 08, 2011 | 3:02 p.m.

South African Thomas Aiken lifted his first European Tour title Sunday at the Spanish Open -- an event inevitably overshadowed by the death of three-time winner Seve Ballesteros.

After clinching victory by two strokes, Aiken immediately dedicated his triumph to one of the greats of the game.

"It's been a sad week with Seve passing away," he said. "I definitely want to dedicate this win to him with it being his home Open and what he gave to his home fans and to golf."

The 27-year-old from Johannesburg, playing his first tournament after a seven-week layoff, shot a closing 70 at El Prat to beat Denmark’s Anders Hansen by two with a 10-under-par total of 278.

Aiken didn’t even touch a club during a month-long trip to the Bahamas, and even with three weeks of practicing at home after that, he came to Spain with no great expectations.

"I don't think it's quite hit home yet," he added. "I've been waiting for this for a long, long time and I've been knocking on the door. I'm ecstatic."

With all the players again wearing black ribbons in memory of the Spanish superstar, Aiken became the fifth South African to win on the circuit already this season. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is among them, of course.

Aiken resumed two in front and doubled that with birdies at the second and sixth. He added another on the short 11th and, after failing to get up and down from sand at the 223-yard 13th, he came straight back with a further birdie.

Three-putting the 15th cut the gap to three again and, when he drove into sand down the 17th the outcome was still far from certain. However, Aiken, six times a winner in his home country, saved par and finished with another.

Playing partner Hansen, never able to pile on the pressure, birdied the par-5 last to push Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal into a tie for third.

For 27-year-old Tour rookie European Jamieson, it was the best of his three top-10 finishes already this year.

Welshman Phillip Price and France's Gregory Havret both bogeyed the 18th to drop into a tie for fifth with Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, England's Simon Dyson and David Horsey and Havret's compatriot Romain Wattel.

Jose Maria Olazabal, mourning the loss of his great friend and ex-cup partner Ballesteros, managed only a 77 and fell outside the top 50 on 8 over.