Willett captures BMW Open, edging Fraser on fourth sudden-death hole

Danny Willett at the BMW International Open
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Danny Willett became the fifth member of the 2007 Britain-Ireland Walker Cup team to earn a European Tour victory on Sunday at the BMW International Open.
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Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012 | 4:07 p.m.

COLOGNE, Germany -- Danny Willett of England won his first European Tour title Sunday, beating Marcus Fraser of Australia in a playoff at the BMW International Open.

Willett shot a final-round 73 for an 11 under total of 277 to finish with a share of the lead with Fraser, who shot a last-day 71 in rainy conditions on the Gut Larcenhof course. Willett then sealed his first Tour win in 106 starts on the fourth extra hole with a par when Fraser bogeyed.

Both players started the playoff with pars on the first and bogeys on the second before again shooting par on the third.

Three players -- Ireland's Paul McGinley (66), England's Chris Wood (73) and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (69) -- tied for third at 10 under.

Willett, the son of a vicar, finally had his prayers answered, but only after going through agonies. He feared this was going to be his 20th top-10 finish without a victory when he threw away a three-stroke lead. But the former top-ranked amateur was given a reprieve when Fraser bogeyed the 456-yard final hole.

Fraser, twice a winner, seemed likely to win when he was 30 feet away in two on the final green and Willett was over the green. However, Willett almost chipped in, then saw Fraser lip out and miss his four-footer coming back.

"Amazing. It was a tough day," said Willett, who will join Fraser at Sunningdale on Monday trying to qualify for the British Open. "I've had some ups and downs in the last 18 months, but I'm injury-free now and I want to thank everybody for the support they've given me."

One in front overnight, Willett birdied the third and fourth, but the script began to change when he three-putted the ninth. Further dropped strokes came at the 11th and 15th, the pressure mounting after he had three-putted again for par at the long 13th.

With the weather at its worst, though, he managed to par the final three whereas Fraser was in rough after his first and second shots down the last.

They were round in 71 and 73 respectively, but their work was from over in a tournament that last year saw a five-hole play-off before Pablo Larrazabal beat fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

McGinley shot the best final round score of 66 to secure his third top-7 finish in his last four starts, but he was left to rue his Saturday 77 after being tied for second at halfway.

"Obviously there's a gaping thing in the week and I've got to give some thought to why I lost my speed on the greens and my confidence," said the Dubliner. "I had five three-putts -- I don't think I've ever had that in my life -- but it was a good reaction and I'm really looking forward to this week's Irish Open. Royal Portrush is one of my favorite courses in the world and I've played it a lot over the years."

Fernandez-Castano is now back in the last automatic qualifying place for the European Ryder Cup team, edging Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts down to the 11th thanks to a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Paul Lawrie, third in the Ryder Cup standings, tied for 23rd along with 54-year-old Bernhard Langer, whose compatriot Marcel Siem would have been in the playoff if he had made a closing 22-footer. Instead, he three-putted it and slipped to joint sixth with Swede Henrik Stenson.

Willett was a member of the losing 2007 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side that included Rory McIlroy, Welshman Rhys Davies and Englishmen David Horsey and John Parry. All of them now has won since turning pro with McIlroy also winning the U.S. Open last year.

The winning 2007 United States team included Webb Simpson, who won this year's U.S. Open, along with Dustin Johnson, recent winner of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and Rickie Fowler, who broke through for his first PGA Tour win in last month's Wells Fargo Championship, where he beat McIlroy in a playoff.

''I was thinking that only this morning that there are now only just a handful of players from that 2007 Walker Cup who haven't won,'' said Willett. ''You look at the strength of those two teams with the likes of Rory, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie. But to now join the likes of those guys as a tour winner is fabulous and it's a big weight off my shoulders.''

Willett is the ninth first-time winner on the European Tour this year and the 22nd different champion in the 24-year history of the BMW International Open.

''It just feels brilliant to win as this is what you look for growing up as a kid,'' Willett said. ''It took a little while longer than I had hoped but it's been a bit of a rough ride the past few months but I'm now back to full health.

''It was a tough day what with the rain and win and to finish 11 under and to get into a playoff was good. I have been in contention a number of times including second to (Martin) Kaymer in 2010 at the Dunhill Links, so to polish it off is a great feeling.''