South African Thomas Aiken lifted his first European Tour title at the Open de España – and was quick to dedicate the win to three-time winner Seve Ballesteros.
"It's been a sad week with Seve passing away," he said. "I definitely want to dedicate this win to him with it being his home Open and what he gave to his home fans and to golf.
“He was everything to the game of golf and I am happy to have won for him – any of us would have won for him.
“I remember Seve, how he enjoyed life and how he enjoyed the game. He has been an inspiration for me and has kept me working hard.
“My first European Tour win has not been an easy week, very emotional.”
The 27 year old from Johannesburg, playing his first tournament after a seven-week lay-off, shot a closing 70 at El Prat near Barcelona to beat Dane Anders Hansen by two.
Aiken took the first prize of €333,330 with a ten under par total of 278.
"I don't think it's quite hit home yet," he added. "I've been waiting for this for a long, long time and I've been knocking on the door. I'm ecstatic."
With all the players again wearing black ribbons in memory of the Spanish superstar, Aiken became the fifth South African to win on The European Tour already this season – Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel among them, of course.
Keen to learn more about Thomas Aiken? Keep an eye out for the June issue of Compleat Golfer to read an exclusive interview with South Africa's latest European Tour champion.
Spanish Open update
Thomas Aiken continued to lead as the third round of the Open de España began, where the flags were flying at half mast following Seve Ballesteros' passing in the early hours.
Ballesteros' compatriots Miguel Angel Jiménez and José Maria Olazábal led the tributes at Real Club de Golf El Prat, the pair competing in the third round despite their grief.
"He was outstanding for his determination and his passion in everything he did," said Jiménez. "He never gave up, he always found a way out, and this was reflected in his personality."
Olazábal, who formed a formidable Ryder Cup partnership with Ballesteros, added: "What impressed most in Seve was his strength, his fighting spirit and the passion he put into everything he did."
On the course Aiken parred his first four holes to remain eight under, one ahead of Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal, who recovered from an opening bogey with a birdie from five feet at the fourth.
France's Gregory Havret was making the biggest move of the day, four birdies in his first seven holes and a further gain at the 14th taking him to five under for the day and six under overall to share third with Anthony Wall.
A minutes silence in memory of five-time Major winner Ballesteros was due to be held at 1445.
Spanish Open Update
Scotland's Scott Jamieson, playing just the 11th European Tour event of his career, tops the leaderboard after the first round of the Open de España in Barcelona.
The 27 year old Challenge Tour graduate shot a six-under-par 66 at El Prat to end day one ahead of England's Steve Webster, Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, France's Romain Wattel and Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal.
Already with three top-11 finishes in his rookie season, Jamieson grabbed eight birdies and would have been clear out in front but for bogeys at the 14th and fourth.
He is a former student at Augusta State and dreams of returning there one day to play in The Masters Tournament.
"We were allowed to play the course once a year and that was thrilling," he said.
"I didn't get a wink of sleep the night before the first time I played. In my first three rounds I shot 80 – same as Rory McIlroy last month, of course – and on my fourth I finally had a respectable 74.
"Not to make excuses, we always played in the winter when it was cold and wet.
"You look at the first hole and during The Masters those guys are hitting nine iron and wedge into the green, but my shortest second shot was a four iron.
"It's a really special place."
Former Open de France champion Larrazábal is playing on his home course and said, "I was ready to play in front of my people and have been dreaming of this round for a long time – since October when we knew the tournament was here.
"I know everything about this course. I know where to hit, where to miss and when to attack."
His brother Alex, British Amateur Champion eight years ago, is now the caddie for Jose Maria Olazábal, but the double Masters winner had to settle for a level par 72.
Colin Montgomerie, Olazábal’s predecessor as Ryder Cup Captain and without a top-ten finish for almost three years, was three under with three to play, but had a double bogey six on the 470 yard 16th after hitting his second into the middle of the lake right of the green.
The 47 year old came back with a birdie, though, and handed in a 70.
That was better than tournament favourites Miguel Angel Jiménez, Matteo Manassero and defending champion Alvaro Quiros.
Jiménez, runner-up to Lee Westwood in Korea on Sunday, had a 71, 18 year old Manassero 73 on his return three weeks after his second European Tour win in Malaysia and Quiros a 74.
South African Thomas Aiken recovered spectacularily from being level par after seven holes birdieing five of his final 11 holes and only bogeying one to get to four under, one shot behind the leaders.
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