It took Garrick Higgo only seven starts to register his maiden win on the European Tour, last year’s Open de Portugal. And 17 starts later, the 21-year-old lefty from South Africa has doubled his tally. Posting back-to-back 63s over the par-70 Meloneras resort course in Spain’s Gran Canaria on the weekend, Higgo got himself to 25-under par for the week and claimed victory at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open. Higgo finished three better than Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer, runner-up in Austria last week, who shot a final-round 62 that was the best of a low-scoring day that saw only 10 of the 74-strong field fail to shoot par or better.
Still, it was Higgo’s display that stood out. Arriving on the back of a T-4 finish in Austria last week, only three times did the former Junior Presidents Cup player make worse than par during a breezy 72 holes over the picturesque 6,140-metre course. That is impressive enough, but perhaps more importantly, Higgo made 25 birdies and two eagles. Combined with his paucity of errors, those were numbers that no one could match. Not even Kieffer, whose cards were highlighted by 28 birdies and one eagle, but scarred by as many six dropped shots and one double-bogey.
“I wasn’t nervous on the outside,” said Higgo, who started the final round with a two-shot edge over three others for the €230,500 first prize. “But it was the first time ever that I have had a lead. All my other wins have been from behind, so I know what it is like to beat someone and how things can change. At first, I was just trying to keep myself in the battle”
That he did with some success. Bogey-free all day, Higgo’s up-and-down for par at the penultimate hole all but sealed the win. The closing birdie he made on the downwind 483-metre par-5 18th was a formality and only confirmed his superiority.
“There is always room for improvement,” said Higgo, who will move into the top 100 on the world ranking for the first time, likely earning him a spot into his first Major championship at next month’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. “But my game is trending the right way. I have been working hard and there are things I can get better at, so I will just take every week as it comes and see where my game goes. I haven’t been playing that well at the start of the year, so this is amazing.”
As for Kieffer, the 30-year-old was philosophical about his second consecutive runner-up finish. In truth, he was never nearer than two shots to the eventual champion, so there was no real reason for any regret.
“I was just trying to go shot for shot,” said Kieffer, who made seven birdies and an eagle en route to his best-of-the-day score. “Even though it is windy you have to have that mindset. I learned that last week. You just have to make as many birdies as possible. And I was just trying to do that. I did a decent job today.”
Decent. But second best. Again.