The Trophy Hassan II was a tournament idly waiting for somebody to step up in the final round played on a sunny Saturday in Morocco. Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez turned out to be the man to seize it, holding off Denmark’s Thomas Bjørn and Korea’s Y.E. Yang with a gutsy final run to secure his first PGA TOUR Champions title.

On the Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, where birdies can be difficult to find, Gonzalez, a 54-year-old who has spent most of his playing days in Europe, suddenly ran off four consecutive birdies in a crucial stretch on the back nine. With his impressive birdie run, which began on 13, he turned a two-shot deficit into a two-shot advantage over Bjørn with two holes to play.

Then he would have to survive a tense and wild finish.

Gonzalez would shoot a final-round, 3-under 70 to hold off Bjørn by a shot. Gonzalez would three-putt the final green for par, missing a 3-footer for birdie, but by then, it was merely cosmetic. Once Bjørn failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie at the par-5 closing hole, Gonzalez, leading by a shot, already had clinched the champion’s traditional gold dagger.

He stood on the 18th green and looked around, holding the bridge of his nose, trying to take in what was happening. After his final par tap-in fell to the bottom of the hole, emotions poured out from Gonzalez, who shot 10-under 209 across 54 holes on the par-73 track. He tightly embraced his son, Santiago, who had been on his bag all week.

For both, the tree-lined golf course in Morocco reminded them of a course they might see at home, in Argentina. So with six holes to play, and after chipping long into the water en route to a sloppy bogey at the devilish par-5 12th, father and son told one another, “Let’s play like we’re home.”

So they did. The senior Gonzalez then tore off on a sizzling birdie run. The best came at the 15th, where a swinging, big breaking putt from right to left turned hard down a slope, picked up speed, met head-on with the flagstick and vanished. Birdie. “It was moving,” said Golf Channel commentator Sam Torrance, a winner in Morocco nearly two decades ago, “but it’s not moving anymore.”

At No. 16, Gonzalez stuffed an 8-iron inside 3 feet, setting up a fourth consecutive birdie. And though his birdie stretch ended at the short 17th, a par there might have felt as good as birdie after Gonzalez’s worst swing of the day with an iron left him unable to get a second shot onto the green at the 287-yard hole. Still, he managed to save par with a clutch 12-footer. When it fell, he raised his putter and pumped his right fist.

Gonzalez had gone through Monday qualifying a week earlier to earn his way into the field at the Chubb Classic, but his Mondays are now free. His life is about to change dramatically.

With the victory, Gonzalez becomes a member of PGA TOUR Champions, earning a two-year exemption into the season-opening Mitsubishi Championship at Hualalai and entry into all five of this season’s senior majors.

“Very comfortable, very happy, and very emotional,” Gonzalez said through tears and a smile on the 18th green.

“Everything is inside my body.

“I worked so much to be here, and this is my trophy. I like that.”

Gonzalez learned the game as a caddie in Argentina and comes from Rosario, the same region that produced world soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

Bjørn, 52, a longtime European stalwart from Denmark, was playing the event on a sponsor exemption and appeared to be the man in control during a tumultuous final nine at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. The Great Dane, as he is called, made two strong birdies at Nos. 12 and 13, the latter coming after a poor tee shot left him in the right trees.

Bjørn’s goal at the start of the day was to get to 10-under, and he fell one shot shy. Nonetheless, he did plenty of things right and handled the closing holes fine outside of his par at No. 18. His birdie at the short 17th pulled him to within a shot of Gonzalez. He simply was edged by a hotter player.

Bjørn would shoot 4-under 69 in the closing round and was the only player to shoot in the 60s on Saturday. Australia’s Mark Hensby (71) tied for third for a second consecutive week, this time alongside Korea’s Y.E. Yang, who shot 73 on Saturday. Yang, a co-leader with Gonzalez through two rounds, had plenty of good looks, but could not get a putt to go in his final round, making pars on his final 12 holes.

“A little bit disappointed, but you have to be disappointed when you finish second,” said Bjørn, a 15-time winner on the DP World Tour who represented Europe in three winning Ryder Cup sides in addition to being winning captain in Paris in 2018.

“I felt like I did all the right things,” he said. “When somebody holes a putt from 14, 15, 16, 17 feet then you deserve to win. Fair credit to Ricardo, it’s life-changing for him. So I’m happy for him. Disappointed that I couldn’t get it done, but hey, we go again.”

Bjørn said he is keeping busy these days – in addition to a few DP World Tour and Legends Tour starts, he has agreed to captain Denmark at the 2024 Olympics in Paris – but he gladly would rearrange his days to play full-time on PGA TOUR Champions. In essence, beyond the gold champion’s dagger and a winner’s check for $320,000, that is mainly what was at stake on Saturday between him and Gonzalez.

“As much as the guys will let me, that’s it,” Bjørn said of playing more frequently on PGA TOUR Champions. He competed in Morocco on a sponsor exemption. “As much as they’ll let me play, I’ll come and play.”

Gonzalez always has been a gifted player, and has worked hard and carried a passport around the globe to get his playing opportunities. He first played his way onto the DP World Tour, where he won four times, through Europe’s Challenge Tour.

Since turning 50, he is a two-time winner on the Legends Tour in Europe. But his goal was to gain a regular slot on the PGA TOUR Champions, something that is a tall order.

This was Gonzalez’s 13th start on the PGA TOUR Champions since turning 50 in October of 2019; his best previous finish had been seventh at the 2020 Senior Open Championship, his lone top 10. He earned a spot in the field in Morocco having finished fourth last season in the Legend Tour’s Staysure Order of Merit. He now is exempt on PGA TOUR Champions through the end of 2025.

“Everybody likes to play in the Champions Tour,” Gonzalez said, “and (I’m) one of the lucky men to get in there.”

Stephen Ames, a winner last week in Naples, Florida, (at the weather-shortened Chubb Classic) and last year in Morocco, shot a third consecutive round of level-par 73 on Saturday to finish in a tie for 16th.

The PGA TOUR Champions schedule will resume March 8-10 in Arizona at the Cologuard Classic.