Matthew Fitzpatrick savours play-off triumph at Omega European Masters

Matthew Fitzpatrick of England wins Omega European MastersCrans Montana: Young talent Matthew Fitzpatrick of England lifted his fourth professional title after prevailing on the third extra hole in a two-way play-off against Australian Scott Hend at the Omega European Masters on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Fitzpatrick marked his best efforts of the week when he fired eight birdies against two bogeys to close with a six-under-par 64, forcing extra time with Hend, who signed for a 68, after the duo were tied on 14-under-par 266 total in regulation play.

Both of them parred the first extra hole after returning to the par-four 18 at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club. Hend, who had held the lead since the opening round, missed a 10-footer birdie chance to settle for a second straight par alongside the young Englishman on the second extra hole.

A third consecutive par in the play-off duel proved enough for Fitzpatrick to seal the deal as the 44-year-old Hend hit a wayward drive to put himself back in the fairway bunker and then over the back of the green before settling for a bogey.

Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour winer, was left to rue a missed opportunity after suffering a play-off heartbreak for the second straight year at the Swiss showpiece, which is the only tournament on European soil to be co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.

Hend, however, took over the driver’s seat on the Asian Tour Order of Merit with his runner-up finish and put himself in the running for a second Merit crown after he became the first Australian to top the money list in 2016.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay returned with rounds of 66 and 68 respectively to settle three shots back in third place at the €2.7 million (approximately US$3.25 million) event.

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Fitzpatrick won the Omega European Masters in his fourth consecutive attempt. He missed the cut in 2014 and finished runner-up and tied-seventh respectively in 2015 and 2016.

Fitzpatrick returned on Sunday morning to complete the remaining three holes for his third round after play was disrupted by fog delay on Saturday.

Fitzpatrick’s closing 64 is the joint-lowest round of the day. He had parred the 18th hole for all seven times that he has played in regulation play and in the play-off this week.

Fitzpatrick is the second Englishman to win the Omega European Masters since the tournament became the only co-sanctioned event on European soil by the Asian and European Tours in 2009. Masters champion Danny Willett was the first to win in 2015.

Hend had pulled his drive into the trees on the 18th hole in regulation play but narrowly escaped after the ball bounced off a spectator’s thigh and went back onto the fairway. He made two putts on the green from there and saved par to get into the play-off.

Hend was defeated in a play-off for the second consecutive year. He had lost to Alex Noren of Sweden on the first play-off hole in 2016.

Hend has his wife Leanne on his bag all week.

By taking over the Order of Merit lead, Hend also put himself in position to secure a spot in the upcoming CIMB Classic as the leading 10 players on the Asian Tour Order of Merit as of October 9 will qualify for the lucrative event.

Players’ quotes:

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) – Fourth round 64 (-6), Total 266 (-14) -WINNER

It was absolutely nerve-wracking out there. I got off to a great start after the front nine and after the birdie on 10, I just felt like I was out there to compete and trying my best to win. It has been a long day.

It was a great final round. It was the lowest round of the week for me and it’s probably my lowest round in my competition here. It’s always nice to do it on the Sunday. It’s always very special.

I supposed no one wants to see Hend losing the play-off again but it’s just one of those things and I felt bad about it. I played really nicely to win today. I love this golf course. It’s fantastic. It really suits my game.

My parents are here this week. It’s really nice for them to witness my win. It’s incredibly great to have them out there with me in tournaments, especially so when it’s a tournament that you win. It’s fantastic.

Scott Hend (Aus) – Fourth round 68 (-2), Total 266 (-14)

I had the opportunity and I didn’t take it. It’s just what happens when you don’t take your opportunities. I hit a good bunker shot on the 18 in regulation play to get into the play-off. I hit that shot when I came back to finish my third round this morning. It was just insane out of the bunker.

I would love to putt the same way I did in the play-off but it didn’t happen. I came back this morning to play the 14th hole of my third round and I made a nice eagle there. It was a good start to the day. I didn’t play as nicely in the afternoon but it is what it is. Fitzpatrick played great to win. He’s a good champion.

Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) – Fourth round 68 (-2), Total 269 (-11)

I enjoyed myself a lot this week. It has been a great week here. It’s good to be playing in the last group today. Yesterday on the back nine, I struggled a little but I managed to stay in contention for the final round.

I think I hit pretty solid today. I could probably be playing in the play-off if I can drop a few more putts. But overall, I am happy with my week. This should be my best result on this course ever. I have been here for nine to 10 times already so it’s definitely nice to finish top-three.

This week will give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. It’s good to be in contention again after some time. That’s some good positives to take for this week. I struggled a little after winning in Malaysia in February so it’s good to find back the good form again.

Scores after round 4 of the Omega European Masters being played at the par 70, 6848 Yards Crans-sur-Sierre GC course (am - denotes amateur):

266 - Matthew FITZPATRICK (ENG) 67-65-70-64, Scott HEND (AUS) 64-63-71-68.

269 - Tyrrell HATTON (ENG) 64-71-68-66, Fabrizio ZANOTTI (PAR) 66-65-70-68.

270 - Mikko ILONEN (FIN) 70-70-66-64.

271 - Lee SLATTERY (ENG) 75-62-68-66, Alex NOREN (SWE) 70-67-68-66, Darren FICHARDT (RSA) 65-63-74-69.

272 - Andres ROMERO (ARG) 69-68-69-66, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 65-66-74-67, Ryan FOX (NZL) 65-67-72-68, WU Ashun (CHN) 69-69-66-68, Richard STERNE (RSA) 68-65-70-69, Duncan STEWART (SCO) 65-70-68-69, Lucas BJERREGAARD (DEN) 68-67-67-70.

273 - Daniel IM (USA) 66-68-73-66, Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 69-69-69-66, Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) 70-66-68-69, Alexander BJORK (SWE) 68-65-69-71.

274 - Julien QUESNE (FRA) 70-68-70-66, Tom LEWIS (ENG) 70-68-71-65, Marcus ARMITAGE (ENG) 68-70-69-67, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 68-67-71-68, Ricardo GOUVEIA (POR) 67-72-67-68, Julian SURI (USA) 67-65-72-70, Nacho ELVIRA (ESP) 70-64-70-70, Rikard KARLBERG (SWE) 69-70-65-70, Stephen GALLACHER (SCO) 68-65-70-71, Marcus FRASER (AUS) 68-68-66-72.