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Jyoti Randhawa shot a closing 70, including birdies at the final two holes, to finish four shots clear at the top of the leaderboard on -12. The Indian started the final 18 holes with a two-shot lead and remained in control of the tournament in blustery conditions on the New Course.
The former DP World Tour player and eight-time Asian Tour winner built a five-shot cushion by the turn, picking up shots at the 4th and 7th as the chasing pack battled against the pressure and wind. When he made another gain at the 10th it looked like he would coast to victory, but a double bogey at 13 and a bogey at 15 opened the door for Alexandre, Griffiths and Balmaseda. That hope was quickly extinguished as Randhawa emphatically sealed the victory with his two closing birdies, leaving the others to focus on the tight battle for the other four cards.
“It feels really good,” said the winner. “I got a few starts last year but I thought if I come to Q School and get in the top five, I’ll get to play the whole year, and here I am. I’m happy that I won and now I can plan my season.
“There was a lot of pressure, especially when we started off. I thought it was going to be -9 for the top five, and then I thought I need to focus, play my game and do the best that I can in my ability. I did that, went five shots ahead, and then I just eased off a bit and made a double bogey out of nowhere. Then I was under some stress and made another bogey and I was like ‘woah, now I’ve got to play’. So then I focussed and I got two more birdies. At the end of the day, as long as I won, I was happy with that.”
Randhawa is setting himself some lofty goals ahead of his 2024 MCB Road to Mauritius campaign: “I’m pretty young for starting out (on the Legends Tour). If I can go in there and win a tournament then that makes everything a lot easier. My aim is to win one and take it from there.”
Alexandre, Balmaseda and Griffiths finished tied-2nd on -8, with Marshall claiming the final card at -7. All of them started the final round inside the top five, and only Marshall briefly dropped out of it before finishing the day strongly.
Alexandre came through Q School last year and finished 35th on the MCB Road to Mauritius in a solid debut campaign. He was level par through 15 holes with a bogey at the 1st and a birdie at the 11th. Another red number at 16 looked to have stamped his ticket, but he found water on the par-3 13th en route to a double bogey to add some jeopardy to his final hole. A birdie on 18 got him in by two shots and gives him the chance to improve on a best Legends Tour finish of 6th last season.
Balmaseda failed to gain a card last year after going into the final round inside the top five, but he avoided the same heartbreak this year after also having to advance from First Stage earlier in the week. He turned in +1, but a birdie on 10 and eight pars to the clubhouse was enough to get the job done and prompted emotional scenes of celebration.
Griffiths also put some Q School demons to bed this week. The Englishman missed out by one place at Champions Tour Q School in December 2022 and Legends Tour Q School last January, but he got over the line this time with a closing 72. He showed brilliant guts to recover from a double bogey at the 9th with two birdies in a bogey-free back nine.
Marshall stood on the par-5 18th tee knowing he needed a par to advance – and he did exactly that. He sensibly chose to lay-up, hit a wedge to 20 feet and left his birdie putt in the jaws to set up the simplest of tap-ins. Like his good friend and playing partner Griffiths, he had also struggled on the front nine and was +3 through eight holes to drop out of the top five. Birdies at 10 and 12 and pars in all added up to a 73 to get in by a single stroke. He’ll have high hopes of challenging in regular events after a couple of top-10s in four starts after he turned 50 last August.
There’s always heartbreak at Qualifying School and this year it was Paul Blaikie who just missed out. The Scotsman had a rollercoaster round of 70, with five birdies and three bogeys. A birdie-birdie finish looked like it might just force a play-off for the 5th card, but he finished alone in 6th.
Carl Suneson made a spirited run in the final round but finished 7th on -5, with Peter Wilson, Van Phillips and Doug McGuigan at -4. Halfway leader Chris Gane closed with a disappointing 77 to finish 14th on -1.
Before the final round, most of the field had to finish their third rounds on Monday morning because rain, lightning and fading light had shortened play on Sunday. The scheduled cut to all players within eight shots of the final qualifying place (5th) was made after 54 holes, with 19 players going back out for the final pressure-packed 18 holes from 11.30am.
After 54 holes, Randhawa led by two shots on -10, with Marshall, Griffiths, Balmaseda and Alexandre tied-2nd on -8 – and inside the all-important top five. Just behind them, halfway Gane and David Shacklady were -6, Alessandro Tadini was -5 and four more players were four shots outside the top five on -4. As it turned out, the players inside the top five remained unchanged on the final leaderboard.
Visit www.legendstour.com to see the final leaderboard and see interviews with all five graduates, and to find out more about Legends Tour Q School and the 2024 MCB Road to Mauritius.