Matt Fitzpatrick retains European Masters title after extra holes at Crans
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 09/09/18 4:51pm
Matt Fitzpatrick displayed impressive mettle to successfully defend his Omega European Masters title after a play-off against Lucas Bjerregaard.
Fitzpatrick's tournament began with disappointment after he was not among Thomas Bjorn's four captain's picks for the Ryder Cup later this month, but his week ended on a high following a thrilling finish at Crans-sur-Sierre.
The Englishman's overnight two-shot lead disappeared early on as he bogeyed two of the first six holes while Bjerregaard stormed to the turn in 30 before going on to card a bogey-free 63 to set the clubhouse target on 17 under.
But Fitzpatrick fought back and clawed his way back to within a shot of the leader with his fourth birdie of the day at the 15th, and he managed to force extra holes as he clipped a great approach to eight feet at the last and rolled in a confident putt.
Both players returned to the 18th tee and missed the fairway on both sides, and after Bjerregaard found the back-right fringe with his second, Fitzpatrick's approach from close to the trees on the left found the heart of the green - 15 feet short of the hole.
Bjerregaard's birdie putt was good for pace but grazed the left edge of the cup, and Fitzpatrick stepped up and drained another clutch putt to become only the second player to defend the title, and the first since the late, great Seve Ballesteros 40 years ago.
The victory was Fitzpatrick's fifth on the European Tour, just eight days after he turned 23 years old, and he admitted afterwards it was probably his toughest after he was forced to dig deep following his erratic start.
Just as the Dane was reeling off four birdies in five holes before the turn, Fitzpatrick revived his challenge with a sublime bunker escape at the seventh which set up a crucial first birdie of the round.
Fitzpatrick added another birdie at the ninth and holed a further good putt for a three at the 12th, only for Bjerregaard to restore his advantage with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 which swept him to 17 under.
The Dane safely parred the final three holes and faced an anxious wait for the final pairing to finish, with Mike Lorenzo-Vera also in contention until an ugly double-bogey seven at the long 14th dented his hopes.
But the Frenchman matched Fitzpatrick's birdie at 15 and both parred the next two holes to leave them needing a birdie at the last to tie Bjerregaard, although Lorenzo-Vera then made a huge mistake as his second from a fairway bunker came up short and found the water hazard.
He did well to salvage a bogey with a superb pitch to tap-in range and left the stage clear for Fitzpatrick's attempt to close with a three for a 67, and the 2016 Ryder Cup star duly obliged and then repeated the feat moments later to win for the first time since lifting the huge trophy in the Swiss Alps last year.
Lorenzo-Vera had to settle for outright third which consolidated his place in the top 60 of the Race to Dubai standings, while Nacho Elvira was a distant fourth after a 66 got him to 12 under par.
Daniel Brooks, needing a fast finish to the season to retain his European Tour card, picked up a good cheque for fifth place on 11 under, but Lee Westwood was unable to threaten the leaders after he began his final round with three straight bogeys before going on to salvage a 70 which left him 10 strokes off the pace.