SURREY, England, May 25 (UPI) -- Spain's Ignacio Garrido, only 123rd on the European Order of Merit and 228th in the world, became the third straight surprise winner Snday of the Volvo PGA Championship.
After the victories of Andrew Oldcorn and Anders Hansen, neither of whom were in the world's top 100 at the time, Garrido collected his first win for six years by beating South African Trevor Immelman at the first hole of a playoff after shooting a closing round of 7-under-par 65.
"I don't know if my heart is beating at the normal rate, but I don't think so," said the 31-year-old, who went into a slump after playing in Europe's Ryder Cup triumph at Valderrama in 1997.
"I didn't expect this. I'm making big swing changes and the last few months I've not been playing great. I expected some results this year, but apart from the majors to me, this is the best tournament to win. It means an awful lot."
The first prize of 414,555 Euros is more than he has earned for the last two seasons.
In a week dominated by Annika Sorenstam playing on the U.S. PGA Tour, victory on this side of the Atlantic perhaps fittingly went to the only man to have appeared on the women's circuit. Garrido's girlfriend is professional Samantha Head and he has caddied for her a few times.
He and Immelman finished tied on the 18-under total of 270, although Immelman almost made an 80-foot eagle putt on the last hole.
Back at the 18th tee for the playoff, Garrido, who birdied the 17th hole in regulation, pushed his second shot and was on the green in two, giving an advantage to Immelman.
But Garrido, whose father Antonio played in the Ryder Cup as well, came down in the clear rather than the trees. From 50 yards, he pitched to two feet.
Immelman, from 60 feet this time, left his eagle attempt five feet short.
"Man, I thought I had holed at the 72nd - even though I'm so small I couldn't really see the hole," said Immelman, whose consolation was a check for 276,365 Euros. "But what can you say? He shot 65 and made a great up-and-down in the playoff."
"They just weren't going in," said Els, who watched Immelman shoot 64 in the third round and then partnered Garrido on the final afternoon. "Definitely, I've got to work on my short game. It let me down."
Garrido praised the part Els played in his win. "People might think that playing with Ernie is a difficult thing, but he's such a nice guy and such a help," the winner said. "He supported me and made it easy."