At the 255th time of trying, Wales’ Jamie Donaldson finally captured his debut European Tour title in a stylish manner befitting of the Irish Open.
As the sun belatedly came out at Royal Portrush Golf Club, where a record 112,280 fans enjoyed the Irish Open’s first appearance in Northern Ireland since 1953, Donaldson capped off a superb final round of 66 with a closing birdie for an 18 under par aggregate winning total.
He said: “I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet, and I don’t think it will until tomorrow. I’ve actually just calmed down now that we’ve left the golf course, but obviously at the moment it feels very, very special to be sat here with the trophy. Surreal is the word I’m looking for.”
Second place was shared between Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti (both 66) and England’s Anthony Wall, who recovered bravely from a triple bogey eight at the second hole to sign for a round of 69 and join the duo on 14 under par.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington could not quite deliver an emotional home triumph, as the Dubliner struggled on the greens en route to posting a round of 70 for a share of seventh place on 12 under par.
Earlier in the day, friends and compatriots Graeme McDowell (-10) and Rory McIlroy (-11) had thrilled the vast galleries with respective rounds of 66 and 67.
But the day undoubtedly belonged to Donaldson, who earned a two-year exemption and a cheque for €333,330 which moved the Welshman to 21st place in The Race to Dubai.