Five players, including home favourites Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello, finished in a tie for first place as the action in the BMW Indoor Invitational powered by TrackMan moved to Real Club Valderrama.
Major winner Garcia and his compatriot and fellow Ryder Cup star Cabrera Bello played at the same time in the interactive feature group. They were joined at the summit by Scotland’s Connor Syme, who is celebrating a second win in the series of virtual events following his victory at Royal Portrush two weeks ago.
England’s Matthew Jordan and Damien Perrier of France also recorded one under par rounds of 70 to secure a share of the $10,000 first prize – to go to charities chosen by each of the five players – as the famous Spanish venue proved a tricky test in the fourth of five events in the new series of virtual golf tournaments using the latest simulator technology.
The 38-player field, which also included former World Number One Martin Kaymer and Belgian Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts, competed virtually from their own homes in the one round, 18 hole stroke play event.
Tournament footage was shown on the European Tour’s social media channels and bmw.trackmaninvitational.
Garcia, who has famously triumphed four times at the Sotogrande venue in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, opened his round with a triple bogey before recovering with three birdies in the next four holes. He is donating his share of the prize fund to the Red Cross of Spain, a cause that he recently donated to alongside fellow Spanish sports stars to help in the fight against Coronavirus.
Garcia said: “I can’t think of a better cause than the Red Cross to donate to, to try to help as many people as possible in these very difficult times. It’s great to be a part of this and have the possibility to help people who need it most in uncertain times and I’m glad that I was able to play well enough to be part of the donation. I can’t wait to see all those people get better and hopefully get back to normal lives as soon as possible.
“We had a good time Rafa and I playing together. Unfortunately I had a terrible start with a triple on the first but I came back nicely and Rafa eagled 17 to get to one under. It was fun to do it. It was different, but it shows you how difficult Valderrama is even on TrackMan with pretty benign conditions, that one under par was a tie for the lead.”
Cabrera Bello had a rollercoaster round that included four birdies and an eagle as well as three bogies and a double. He said: “It was different of course playing the course on TrackMan, but it did have a lot of similarities and it did feel pretty real. On the green shapes you could see the run-offs and it was playing as real as it could possibly be.
“BMW does a lot of charitable work, not only during these hard times but also every year, they are a very generous company, so to be able to participate in this event for charity was really fun. Also to have the opportunity to win alongside friends and share it a little bit was great.”
Syme is celebrating for the second time in three weeks after topping the leaderboard at Royal Portrush. He said: “It feels great to be a tied winner this week. Guys like Sergio and Rafa were involved, so to compete with them and be tied at the top was cool. Valderrama was as tough as it is in real life. On holes like the second where you try to run it under the tree on the fairway, it is so realistic. My wedge game was good and that was the only reason that I managed to get the joint best score. It’s great to be a part of it and I can’t thank BMW and TrackMan enough for these opportunities.”
Perrier finished in second place in week one over the Old Course at St Andrews, and he went one better this time, birdieing the last two holes to recover from a double-bogey on the 16th and seal a tie for top spot.
He said: “After my second place at St Andrews, I’m very happy to be tied for the win this week alongside great names such as Sergio Garcia, who we all know loves this course. I remember the last time I played at Valderrama I was alongside Martin Kaymer. We almost didn’t see each other because I spent my whole round enjoying the shadow of the trees. This week I took my revenge and I’m proud of it!”
Jordan was participating for the second consecutive week and he leapt up the leaderboard after an 18th place finish last week at Golf Club Munchen Eichenried.
He said: “I’m delighted to get the win at Valderrama – it’s one of my favourite courses. It’s a bit tight and narrow so any of my friends watching this will be confused as to how I won. I would like to say a massive thank you to BMW, the European Tour and TrackMan for putting this event on. Lockdown has been difficult for most of us, so just to have something to look forward to and compete in, has been great.”
The winning fivesome finished one shot ahead of a group of seven players who shot level par rounds of 71, including French trio Benjamin Hebert, Raphael Jacquelin and Romain Langasque. Kaymer, Italian Nino Bertasio and England’s Paul Waring were then a shot further back in a tie for 13th place.
Footage of the BMW Indoor Invitational powered by TrackMan is now available on the European Tour’s social media channels (Twitter: @europeantour; Instagram: @europeantour; YouTube: EuropeanTour) and via https://bmw.
BMW Indoor Invitational powered by TrackMan venues and dates:
Saturday May 9 – Old Course, St Andrews (Winner, Joost Luiten)
Saturday May 16 – Royal Portrush (Winner, Connor Syme)
Saturday May 23 – Golfclub München Eichenried (Winner, Wil Besseling)
Saturday May 30 – Real Club Valderrama (Winners, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Sergio Garcia, Matthew Jordan, Damien Perrier, Connor Syme)
Saturday June 6 – Wentworth