England’s Chris Wood produced a record-equalling performance to claim the biggest win of his career in the BMW PGA Championship and get within touching distance of securing a Ryder Cup debut.
Wood carded a closing 69 at Wentworth to finish nine under par, a shot ahead of Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg, whose 65 included a hole-in-one on the second.
The 28-year-old from Bristol started the day three shots off the lead held by Australia’s Scott Hend, but fired an eagle and four birdies to race to the turn in 29 and match the tournament record set by Sheffield’s Masters champion Danny Willett on Friday.
And despite almost letting slip a four-shot lead with a nervy back nine of 40, Wood held on to earn the first prize of £637,000 and move into the automatic qualifying places for Hazeltine, as well as climbing from 54th in the world to a career-high position inside the top 25.
“It’s so hard to put into words at the moment,” said Wood, who led by two shots after 54 holes on his debut in 2010 but shot a closing 77.
“I’ve got my best friends, my fiancee, my family here and it is so, so special to win in front of them.
“I came here when I was 12 or 13 to watch with my dad. I was not really thinking I could beat those players one day – I just wanted to be on that stage and so to come down the last with the lead and win the tournament is pretty surreal.
“It’s hard to win, as I’ve proved. I did not look at a leaderboard all day but when you are making lots of birdies on a tricky day you know you are there or thereabouts.
“On the 18th I had 196 yards to the front and I immediately thought six iron, but my caddie said ‘Do you want to know the situation?’
“I said I’ll put it in your hands and he said I’d like you to lay up. It seems silly hitting sand wedge, sand wedge into 18 but as soon as he told me to lay up, I knew probably five was enough. I can rest easy now and enjoy it now.”
Wood admitted the victory of his contemporary Willett in the Masters had provided a “kick up the ****” after a relatively poor start to the season, while the videos played by captain Darren Clarke ahead of the EurAsia Cup win in January gave him “goosebumps”.
“All I wanted this season was to give myself a chance to try and qualify for the Ryder Cup and this has done that,” he added. “There are three or four months where other players can win big events and overtake me, so I have to keep pushing and pushing.”
A place in the Olympics is also possible after closing the gap on Willett and Justin Rose, although Wood joked: “My stag do is the week of the Olympics. We could possibly postpone that but not the wedding which is the week after.”
Karlberg recorded an ace in the opening round of the Volvo China Open at the end of April and fittingly won an XC90 from the tournament sponsors which is built near his home city of Gothenburg.
There was no prize for holing out with a nine iron from 154 yards at Wentworth, but it did kickstart a front nine of 30 and a brilliant final round which almost proved enough for victory as Wood wobbled.
The last two groups of Hend, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood and YE Yang were a combined 16 over par for the day, with Hend on course to shoot in the 80s until a birdie on the 16th and eagle on the par-five 17th.
That left Willett alone in third after a closing 71 which rounded off what the world No 9 labelled a “topsy-turvy” week.
“The game’s not been there,” said Willett. “It’s a work in progress and there’s glimpses of really good, and then there’s obviously little sections that are very bad. I think a couple of weeks off before the US Open is going to do me some good.
“Looking at the scores now, we could have made it really close today if we would have got going and put the foot down but we just had too many mistakes. A top five is all right, but obviously you’re working hard to try and win.”
Kodai Ichihara, Shugo Imahira, Sang-hee Lee and Hideto Tanihara have qualified for the Open Championship after yesterday’s final round of the Mizuno Open, the fourth event in the Open Qualifying Series.
Ichihara, Imahira and Lee finished tied for second on 10 under par, a shot behind winner KT Kim of South Korea.
Ichihara secured a second start in the Open, having previously missed the cut at Royal Lytham in 2012. Imahira and Lee will both make their debuts at Troon.
After finishing in a four-way tie for fifth with New Zealand’s Michael Hendry and Japanese compatriots Naoto Takayanagi and Satoshi Kodaira, who had already secured his place in the Open, Tanihara sealed the deal due to his higher world ranking.