Hennie’s back hobbles his chances in Andalucia

Hennie Otto woke up on the morning of the final round of the Open de Andalucía Costa del Sol in Spain and he knew it would be a battle to pull off a victory.

“I woke up and my back went into a spasm again,” said Otto after his fifth-place finish behind winner Julien Quesne of France, who triumphed by two strokes over Italy’s Matteo Manassero for his maiden European Tour victory.

“It’s a pity my back started hurting today,” said Otto. “There were a couple of shots I couldn’t hit but I gave myself a chance to get it to 17-under. I think I could have got it to 15-under; but it’s a good week.”

In the end, he finished at 12-under, five off the pace, but it was a pair of bogeys on 15 and the tough finishing hole which saw him slip out of contention just as Quesne put in a fine finishing spurt to win emphatically.

“I’ve had the back injury for a while and I think with all the travelling from America, it’s crept in again,” said Otto. “I said to my caddie I should try and play around it and just finish nicely. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hit any full shots any more, but fifth place is not too bad, is it?”

It was also not too bad for Jaco van Zyl, who’s share of seventh place was the next best performance by a South African: He closed with a brilliant six-under-par 66, and only Quesne’s course record-equalling 64 was better.

Alex Haindl finished with a one-under 71 for a share of 17th while Darren Fichardt slipped to a final three-over 74 but managed to stay inside the top 20 despite it.

Telkom PGA champion Keith Horne also made the cut, and was four-under for the tournament in a share of 42nd.

Richard Sterne, Jbe’ Kruger, Warren Abery and James Kingston missed the cut.

Quesne birdied four of the last five holes, his magnificent approach to the difficult 18th leaving him a five-foot putt which he nervelessly holed. The two-time Challenge Tour winner had never previously higher than 16th in a European Tour event and was 322nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. He rocketed up to 183rd after his win.

For Otto, it’s about managing the back: “I’m playing well and I’m just taking small steps at a time and there’s another week next week. A couple of days rest and then Morocco and then two weeks off,” he said.

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