The organisers of some golf tournaments find themselves in a near-constant battle to secure sponsorship. Not so the BMW International Open which has always had a very close relationship with its title sponsor and was actually originally held in Munich every year from its foundation in 1989 to 2012 due to the proximity to BMW’s headquarters.
That sponsorship is just one reason why this tournament is held in very high regard by the European Tour as an organisation and its players. Big name stars of golf and international fields have always been the order of the day for a tournament that stops off at some of the very best golf courses that Germany has to offer.
2022: Haotong Li
When Thomas Pieters missed a putt to stay in the BMW International Open it sparked some of the most emotional scenes on the DP World Tour this season. Haotong Li, a man who had been through such an existential crisis with the state of his game that he nearly walked away from golf, collapsed on the floor in a flood of tears as he secured his first win anywhere for four and a half years.
Li, a popular figure on tour, was immediately rushed by friends who sprayed him with champagne in a remarkable display of relief. Some people on Twitter were unhappy with the cursory handshake Li gave to Pieters but you’d need a heart of stone not to be moved by what was clearly such an important moment in Li’s career and indeed his life.
The relief was all the more acute given the way the 2022 BMW International Open played out. Li was imperious for the majority of the tournament and went into the final day with a three-shot lead. That buffer did not last long as Pieters finished fast and Li began to flounder. The Chinese star must have thought that he had blown his chance with an awful chip on the first playoff hole but he somehow holed a putt for birdie from around 45 feet which was ultimately enough for the victory.
2021: Viktor Hovland
Viktor Hovland knows that he is going to make a lot of history during his career. Norway has never before produced a golfer of Hovland’s class so he is going to set a lot of precedents. That’s exactly what he did at the BMW International Open, becoming the first Norwegian to win a European Tour event. He’d already become the first Norwegian winner on the PGA Tour and the way the 23-year-old is progressing suggests that he could well become Norway’s first winner of a men’s major and will surely become the first Norwegian to compete in the Ryder Cup later in the year.
Hovland hasn’t broken those records by accident. He made an instant impact on the PGA Tour after turning professional on the back of a successful amateur career but has already had to battle some problems with his game. Most notably, his short game was not of the required quality in the early days of his pro career. He has gone away and worked very hard on that and was able to make some important saves on the fourth day at Golfclub München Eichenried when Martin Kaymer poured the pressure on with an excellent closing round of 64. With Kaymer recently named as European Ryder Cup vice captain that can certainly only help Hovland’s cause.
The brilliant Norwegian has never shied away from a challenge and despite making a couple of missteps early in his round, he got better as the day went on and stood on the 18th tee with a one shot lead. Nobody who has watched Hovland play feared for his ability to make the required par and he actually ended with a flourish, making birdie to get to -19.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Andrea Pavan
Andrea Pavan knows how difficult it is to compete at the top level of European golf. The Italian had to qualify four times for the European Tour, twice via his performances on the Challenge Tour and twice via the nerve-shredding Q-School. He never lost the belief that he belonged at this level though and very much had that belief validated at Golfclub München Eichenried where the 2019 BMW International Open became his second tournament win on the European Tour.
For a man who has not always had things easy, the style of his victory in Munich was fitting. He had to show all of his belief and ability to overcome a deficit of four shots on the final round of the tournament and even then a round of 66 which took him to -15 for the tournament wasn’t enough for the outright win. It took him to a playoff with multiple European Tour winner and Ryder Cup player, Matthew Fitzpatrick.
The pair went shot for shot up the first playoff hole before a second trip up the 18th brought a birdie for Pavan which was enough for a win he described as “amazing” before thanking his coach, caddie, wife and family for sticking by him during the tough times.
2018: Matt Wallace
The BMW International Open moved to Golf Club Gut Laerchenhof for the 2018 renewal and everybody involved in the club or who turned up to watch wished that it could stay for more than one year after a fantastic crescendo to the tournament. Matt Wallace was eventually crowned the tournament winner but only after some very good golf and a nervous wait in the clubhouse.
Wallace began the final day two shots off the lead. The Englishman knew that he would need to go low to have any chance of earning his second European Tour win but it was Thorbjorn Olesen who set the pace, taking enough scoring chances to break the course record with a round of 61.
That was enough for Olesen to become the leader in the clubhouse, setting a target of -9 to beat. Wallace would eventually better that score by a single shot but there was still a chance that one of Mikko Korhonen or Martin Kaymer (who was very well supported by the home crowd) could at least force a playoff. In the end, their challenge fell short so Wallace could breathe a sigh of relief and pick up the trophy.
2017: Andres Romero
Richard Bland is a European Tour stalwart and one of the most popular men on tour. There was always a lot of interest any time he got in contention to win his maiden event and so it was in the 2017 BMW International Open when he teed off in the final group on Sunday alongside the current Masters champion, Sergio Garcia. Bland didn’t really get going until making the turn but he was unable to hold off the charge of Andres Romero who shot -7 on the final day to win his first European Tour title for a decade.
That final round was good enough for a final score of -17 and the slimmest of winning margins for Romero. Thomas Detry joined Bland and Garcia in the group who ended up stranded on -16 with Rikard Karlberg two shots further behind in fifth place. Beating a stellar field was the icing on the cake for Romero. The strength of the field also had a huge impact on his official world ranking which improved by an incredible 655 places.