Alfred Dunhill Links Championship: Victor Perez claims maiden European Tour victory

Victor Perez of France poses with the trophy
Victor Perez of France poses with the trophy

Rookie Victor Perez claimed his maiden European Tour title in his 29th appearance after posting a final-round 70 to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by one shot.

Final leaderboard

-22 Perez

-21 Southgate

-20 Lagergren, Waring

-19 Fleetwood, Jordan, Lewis, Smith, Wang

Fourth round report

Victor Perez secured his maiden European Tour title in his rookie season after edging a thrilling final-round battle with Matthew Southgate to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by one shot.

The 27-year-old posted a closing 70 at the Old Course at St Andrews on Sunday to reach 22 under par and become the first Frenchman to win the tournament.

England's Southgate was alone in second a shot further back after he carded two bogeys on the back nine and failed to make the birdie he needed at the last to force a play-off.

Another Englishman Paul Waring and Swede Joakim Lagergren finished in a tie for third on 20 under, while England's Jordan Smith, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Lewis and Matthew Jordan were in the group in a share of fifth place alongside Jeunghun Wang.

Perez is no stranger to links golf in Scotland, having spent the last 18 months living up the road in Dundee, where his girlfriend attends dental school.

And he made the most of home comforts on Sunday, carding three birdies and a solitary bogey to win on his 29th European Tour appearance.

Two-time Challenge Tour winner Perez said: "Obviously I'm very pleased.

"There are so many things that need to come together to win a golf tournament. There are so many great players that are still striving for their first win, and obviously it happened for me in my first year.

"I'm quite fortunate to be honest. Waking up this morning, you go out and you try to play as well as you can, but you don't know if somebody can go and shoot eight under - and then you lose by six and you felt like you did your job but you might be miles away.

"Obviously I felt like I had a solid day. I did my job and it was good enough, and next thing you know, you're a winner on the European Tour. You have to take it how it comes and it's a great win for me."

Perez began the day alongside Southgate at the top of the leaderboard but found himself in possession of the outright lead when his playing partner dropped a shot at the first.

His first birdie of the day came at the fifth when he got up and down from the rough to the right of the green.

Southgate leapfrogged him to the summit after reeling off a hat-trick of gains from the fifth but a six-foot birdie at the short eighth pulled Perez level with the Englishman.

Perez fell off the top of the leaderboard again when Southgate curled in from 12 feet for a birdie at the ninth to get to 23 under.

And his deficit was extended to two strokes when Perez made a bogey at the short 11th.

But a two-shot swing at the par-five 14th saw Perez join playing partner Southgate at the top once more as he tapped in his close-range birdie putt to get to 22 under, while a poor pitch shot cost Southgate a shot and the outright lead.

Perez, whose caddie is Rory McIlroy's former bagman JP Fitzgerald, took a one-shot lead to the 18th tee after Southgate bogeyed the 17th, and when they both made pars at the last, Perez secured the title.

Southgate said: "It's been a horrible season for me and this has sorted that right out and got us right back to the Race to Dubai and that's the goal for me, really.

"I think I've proven to the world this week that when I do switch it on, I can mix it with the best and I've beaten a hell of a lot of good players this week."


Third round report

England's Matthew Southgate fired a 65 over the Old Course at St Andrews to share a two-shot lead heading into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The 30-year-old made an eighth birdie of the day on his final hole to get to 20 under and join Victor Perez at the top of the leaderboard in Scotland.

Fellow Englishman Paul Waring was then at 18 under, a shot clear of American Ryder Cup star Tony Finau and Swede Joakim Lagergren.

After playing 18 holes at each of St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns over the first three days of the pro-am event, the players who have made the cut will contest the final round back at the home of golf on Sunday.

Southgate has been a picture of consistency so far, following an opening 65 at Carnoustie with a 66 at Kingsbarns before carding another 65 over the layout where he won the 2010 St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur.

"We've played 54 holes and 51 of them haven't looked like dropping a shot, really," he told europeantour.com.

"It's been pretty special stuff tee to green and sticking to the game plan and ticking a lot of boxes.

"I'm so passionate about winning tournaments and being here at the home of golf tomorrow is going to be a difficult one to just keep myself in check and keep producing what I have done the first three days.

"The biggest job tomorrow is going to be keeping me in check rather than the golf swing."

Southgate made birdies on the tenth, 13th, 17th, 18th, first, fifth and sixth and drove the par four ninth for another gain, with his only blemish coming at the 14th.

Dundee-based Frenchman Perez made nine birdies and a bogey in a 64 at Kingsbarns, while Waring carded a 65 at Carnoustie.

English pair Luke Donald and Jordan Smith were at 16 under, with countrymen Tyrrell Hatton and Matthew Jordan, and Scot Calum Hill a further shot back.

Second round report

Matthew Jordan has already enjoyed one victory at St Andrews and surged into pole position for a highly-lucrative second in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Jordan had visions of the second sub-60 score on the European Tour after covering the front nine of the Old Course in just 29 shots with an eagle on the third followed by five straight birdies.

And although the 23-year-old had to settle for an eight-under-par 64, that gave him a halfway total of 14 under par and a one-shot lead over fellow Challenge Tour player Calum Hill, Matthew Southgate and Joakim Lagergren.

"The 59 did cross my mind," said Jordan, who finished 15th in the British Masters in May after an opening 63 at Hillside. "I had my friends here and they were quick to tell me that they wanted the same on the back nine.

"It was in my head but really I knew the rain was coming in as well."

Jordan turned professional in September 2018 after a stellar amateur career which saw him reach fifth in the world rankings, claim a nine-shot victory in the Lytham Trophy and also win the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2017.

Lagergren's 62 at Kingsbarns was the lowest round of the day, with Justin Rose having to settle for a 64 at the same venue after covering the front nine in just 28 with six birdies and an eagle.

Rose stumbled on the back nine with a double bogey on the 11th but ended the day just two shots off the lead.

"You never know when it's going to happen like that," Rose said. "I was aware I was going low but was super relaxed. Sometimes you can get in your own way when you're on a really good run.

"I kept it going nicely on the front nine and just got caught out on number 11, but I felt like every time I made a mistake today, I bounced back pretty quickly."

World number two Rory McIlroy is six shots off the lead after a 66 at Kinsgbarns.

First round report

South Africa's Justin Walters holds a slender lead after the opening round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, but the English trio of Matt Southgate, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton could hold the upper hand.

Walters carded a nine-under-par 63 on the Old Course at St Andrews to lead by one from England's Jordan Smith, Spain's Adrian Otaegui, New Zealand's Ryan Fox and France's Victor Perez.

However, Southgate was just a shot further back after a bogey-free 65 at Carnoustie, traditionally the toughest of the three courses used for the pro-am event, with Fleetwood and Hatton both shooting 66 at last year's Open Championship venue.

Southgate, who hails from Southend but has been a member at Carnoustie since he was 16, said: "I'm chuffed to bits.

"It's a dream come true really for me. I've waited a long time to go down that last hole with that feeling. A really, really special day for me.

"The last few years I've struggled at this event when it gets so cold and I've really struggled because I'm such a feel player. If I lose the feeling in my hands a bit it's a bit of a nightmare in the knock-down shots but we were blessed with the weather today."

Fleetwood set the course record of 63 at Carnoustie in this event in 2017 and has twice finished runner-up, including 12 months ago.

"I always score really well on this one," said Fleetwood, who has not missed a halfway cut since last July's French Open. "It is always good to get off to a good round here and a good start.

"If the wind blows I always find Kingsbarns pretty tricky with the way it's so exposed. Hopefully get some good conditions there tomorrow and shoot another good one and then you've got two rounds around St Andrews.

"I'd love to have this event on my CV. Long way to go but I've done all right in the past and hopefully Sunday I have another chance."

World number two Rory McIlroy had to settle for a 70 at Carnoustie after hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the sixth, his 15th hole of the day, but it was not all bad news.

McIlroy is playing with his father Gerry in the team event and joked: "As all dads do sometimes he can start to get on my nerves a bit out there, but for the most part it's been brilliant.

"He loves it and he played well today. He bettered me by five (shots) and his goal for the week was if he could better me by four a day, 16 for the week, I think we have a decent chance."

Lee Westwood was a shot ahead of McIlroy on three under thanks largely to a hole-in-one on the eighth at Carnoustie, his 17th hole of the day.

"I played pretty good and hit a lot of good iron shots all day and had not made any putts," Westwood said. "I got on the eighth and it was 189 yards and all of a sudden the wind just dropped.

"I thought I'm not going to get a seven iron back there as I stood over it the first time so I thought I'd better hit a six iron and it came off lovely.

"It landed perfect on the green and ran out and just caught the right edge. Eliminated the putting on that one."

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