Scotland’s Gary Orr finally made it into the winner's circle as he has so often threatened to do in the past. Orr's final hole eagle three relegated Wales' Phillip Price into second spot and it was to be Orr's name etched on the Algarve Portuguese Open Trophy.
Fittingly the 1993 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year won his first European Tour title on the Le Meridien Penina course designed by Cotton. His final round of 69, three under par, gave him a 13-under-par total of 275, one clear of Price and four clear of England's Brian Davis, South African Tony Johnstone and Irishman Paul McGinley.
Orr played some scrambling golf to draw level with Price, making birdie on the 14th. But he nearly lost his chance at a first tour win after hooking his tee shot on the 17th over onto the 18th fairway. Price, the 1994 Champion, took the advantage to the 18th tee with a superbly played five wood from the right rough to within 20 feet but he forgot to hit his birdie putt and it agonisingly stopped short. That would have effectively ended Orr's hopes of victory.
As Price missed the fairway with his drive, Orr snatched his chance to put some pressure on at the par five finishing hole. A powerful drive and split the fairway and with Price having to lay up, Orr snatched his chance. Orr knew he needed to hit a 'flush' two iron 220 yards, he put it to 12 feet and stroked the ball in the hole to win by one shot.
“It’s a dream to do something like that – to win with an eagle on the last,” said Orr. “Winning is what everyone works for. It’s not easy sometimes when things don’t work out but you’ve got to keep plugging away.”
The 32-year-old from Helensburgh, whose wife Sarah is expecting their first child in May, has finished runner-up three times and has amassed numerous top tens. But the winning breakthrough had always eluded him. In 1998 Colin Montgomerie holed a long putt to win the Volvo PGA Championship and then last year Lee Westwood charged through the field to deny Orr in the TNT Dutch Open. In the first event of the year Orr again finished runner up when Anthony Wall triumphed in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
He said: “It’s a psychological barrier. Until you’ve won you don’t know what you're capable of. I always felt I had the game to win I just had to take my chance when it came along. I wasn’t going to leave that putt short on the 18th. When you get an opportunity like that you’ve got to take it.
“You don’t want to start finishing second all the time. It’s not what you try to do. It does frustrate you a bit but what I’ve tried to do is not let it get to me. Tried to put it to the back of my mind. It’s been a struggle. But because I hadn’t won a tournament it made me work much harder.”
Orr and Price started the final round level at ten under par with Ireland’s Paul McGinley three off the pace but it was the Welshman who got off to the better start, rolling in six single putts in the first seven holes for an outward half of 31, four under par. Orr held on with an eagle three on the fifth, followed by a birdie on the following hole to reach the turn one shot adrift. McGinley was also making up ground but his hopes faded with a bogey on the ninth and then two more dropped shots on the 13th and 14th.
The two leaders, who had played flawless golf for the first nine holes, struggled around the turn and both dropped shots at the tenth and 12th. But Orr bounced back with his birdie on the 14th to set up the dramatic finale. “Gary played the last perfectly so I think he deserved to win,” said Price. “An eagle on the last is tough to beat. I had a very good front nine, holed some good putts, but ran into trouble in the middle. I’m disappointed but this is one of my favourite tournaments. I would love to win it again but will have to wait until next year.”
And Brian Davis equalled the course record of 65 with a round that included nine birdies to charge through the field into a share of third alongside McGinley (70) and Tony Johnstone (69).