It was a very tough year for the European Tour in 2020, just as it was for sports organisations everywhere. A lot of very hard work went into ensuring that top level professional golf could return in Europe after the enforced shutdown and the resurrection of the Wales Open was one of the real benefits of that work. The tournament at Celtic Manor in 2020 was the first edition of the Wales Open since 2014 and a strong field greeted its return.
The tournament was such a success that the Wales Open was quickly added to the schedule for the 2021 European Tour and hopes are high among Welsh golf fans that Celtic Manor will once again become an annual stop off for some of the leading lights of European and international golf. The Wales Open, after all, is a tournament which has been won by Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter and Miguel Angel Jiménez, among others, since its foundation in 2000.
|2022||Celtic Manor Resort||Callum Shinkwin|
|2021||Celtic Manor Resort||Nacho Elvira|
|2020||Celtic Manor Resort||Romain Langasque|
2022: Callum Shinkwin
The Cazoo Open fell at the start of August in 2022 and so all of the players in the field were very much thinking about their standings in the Race to Dubai during their week in Wales. Callum Shinkwin certainly had Dubai on his mind after seeing out a four-stroke victory at Celtic Manor.
The margin of victory looks very comfortable for Shinkwin. It doesn’t tell the story of the battle he had during Sunday’s final round with playing partners Connor Syme and Julien Guerrier. It also doesn’t suggest that Shinkwin, along with the rest of the field, found the going tough at times on Sunday. He made five bogeys during his final round but was able to move forwards thanks to an impressive six birdies.
It was Syme who laid down the biggest challenge, something that was not missed by Shinkwin. “I feel great, even though I had a few shots of a lead heading into the back nine it's still not easy, especially when Connor then made a charge,” said Shinkwin during his post round media duties. “Winning anywhere is fantastic, it’s a great feeling, winning with family friends here it means so much more.”
2021: Nacho Elvira
Nacho Elvira has never made life easy for himself. The 34 year old Spaniard has found himself in some very good positions to claim a maiden European Tour win but never before done enough to get over the line. The 2021 Cazoo Open was the third time that Elvira had made it through to a European Tour playoff and for the first time, he did enough to make that breakthrough win.
The sense of relief was obvious on the 18th green at Celtic Manor. Once again, Elvira had failed to close out a win on the European Tour, missing a putt on the final green for the outright win. He must have wondered whether another big chance had gone begging when he prepared himself for a playoff against Justin Harding. However, it was the South African who found the pressure too much, missing a fairly routine par putt on the first playoff hole to hand the win to Elvira.
Giving up the chance to win in regulation time might have actually helped Elvira. He admitted feeling nervous over his putts on the way home but then the worst happened and he threw away his chance. That disappointment released the pressure and Elvira said afterwards, “I was more calm in the play off than I was on the 18.” Typically, he still made life tough for himself with a couple of sloppy shots in the playoff but this time Elvira did enough for a win which boosted his world ranking by over 400 places.
2020: Romain Langasque
Of all the questions to be answered by the return of the Wales Open to the European Tour, one which did not have to be asked was whether the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor would be a quality venue. It is a world class golf course and produced an excellent tournament which was won by French golfer Romain Langasque thanks to a fantastic final round of 65.
Langasque played nice, steady golf for the first three days which is just what was required given the difficult scoring conditions. However, he found himself some way down the leaderboard and five shots off the leading pair of Sebastian Soderberg and Connor Syme. The Frenchman set off playing the same sort of steady golf that had served him well over the rest of the tournament but suddenly found his approach play was setting up chances and the putts were dropping.
After making the turn in 33 courtesy of three birdies it became clear that Langasque was a serious contender, especially as some of the players who began the day in contention started to falter. Three more birdies followed on the back nine and, crucially, Langasque kept bogeys off his scorecard where as Soderberg took eight on the last hole and Syme made a double bogey. The win was Langasque’s first on the European Tour and saw him qualify for a place in the 2020 US Open thanks to his position on the UK Swing Order of Merit which was introduced for 2020.