Azahara Muñoz takes second place in the Open de España

Dutch golfer Anne Van Dam with her trophy.
Dutch golfer Anne Van Dam with her trophy. / JOSELE-LANZA
  • Dutch player Anne Van Dam won the tournament but the Malaga golfer never gave up and fought right up to the final hole

This year's Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España at La Quinta Golf will be remembered for a long time, thanks to the tremendous battle between the two star rivals: Azahara Muñoz, who was playing at home and hoped to achieve her third consecutive victory in this tournament; and Anne Van Dam, from Holland, who began with a certain advantage after having dominated the classification with moderation and without making any fuss about it.

The two women faced each other first thing in the morning, when they played the seven holes which were still pending from the Saturday. That ended by strengthening the position of Van Dam, who then returned to the course to play the definitive fourth round with a four-stroke advantage over the Malaga player. It wasn't quite an abyss, but nearly.

Despite that, Muñoz fought back strongly: two consecutive birdies with the first two strokes made it clear that Van Dam wasn't going to have it easy. As the afternoon progressed, she kept the birdie machinery in action, a strategy which enabled her to reduce the distance from the Dutch player from six strokes to two.

However, just when she thought she had successfully got over the most difficult part, an error at the 16th hole put Muñoz out of the game. Van Dam had become more hesitant by then, barely managing two birdies throughout the whole course: a conservative strategy based on pars which almost cost her the victory. But at the aforementioned hole, just three away from the end of the tournament, the Malaga player sent the ball into the trees and it was declared unplayable, meaning she had to return to the tee and start again. The consequence was a bogey against a new par by Van Dam, who then appeared to give a sigh of relief.

"I had scored four birdies and wanted to continue like that, but I used the wrong club and went to the right, and you can't afford to make a mistake there.

"It's a shame, but I am proud that I fought to the end, I was aggressive and I tried to score another birdie. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. So all that remains is for me to congratulate Anne," said Muñoz, who hadn't conceded defeat and continued to fight the last two holes.

Van Dam didn't assume she had won until the 18th hole, when it was mathematically impossible for her to lose the tournament. That was when she finally smiled. The tension had built up to an almost unbearable level, and the young Dutch woman was aware that she had been up against the ropes until just a few minutes earlier.

Spanish success

Someone who did save her place at the last stroke at the final hole was Catriona Matthew. The veteran golfer recovered her position with a masterly putt. Had she not done so, she would have shared a place in the ranking with Spain's Natalia Escuriola. Four players from the Armada ended the day in the top ten of the last official tournament of the season on the European Circuit: in addition to Muñoz and Escuriola, Luna Sobrón and Marta Sanz took sixth and eighth place respectively.