Long one of the biggest-hitters in world golf, Scott Hend has never really been known for his consistency on the golf course. Except in Switzerland that is. For the second year in succession, the 44-year-old Australian played his way into a playoff for the Omega European Masters. And for the second year in succession, Hend had to be content with the runner-up check. Last year Sweden’s Alex Noren emerged victorious; 12 months later it was the Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick’s turn to see off Hend’s gallant challenge and claim the €450,000 first prize.
Three holes after the pair had tied on 14-under-par 266 in regulation of the endlessly picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre course, Fitzpatrick’s two-putt par on the 18th was good enough to break the deadlock. Hend had his chance though. On the second playoff hole, the World No. 98 missed from no more than four feet for what would have been a winning birdie and his third European Tour victory. As it was, one hole later the 23-year-old Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. Amateur champion who shot a closing 64 on Sunday to get into the playoff, owned a fourth European Tour win. Hend, after bunkering his tee-shot and finding a less than appetizing lie, flew the putting surface with his approach and in the end did well to make bogey.
For the record, another highly promising Englishman, Tyrrell Hatton, tied for third place alongside Fabrizio Zanetti of Paraguay. Defending champion Noren pulled up T-6 on nine under.
“I'm delighted,” said Fitzpatrick, who changed his shot-shape from draw to fade prior to finishing second behind compatriot Danny Willett in Switzerland in 2015. “It’s one that I’ve always wanted to win. I love playing this golf course, from the first ever year I came as an invite in 2014, it’s one that has really stood out on my schedule and I always want to come back and play. And today I kept my nerve and just played really smart all week. I remember being here in 2015 when Dan won, and his parents were there to see him win so it's nice to have mine here too. It’s the third win they’ve seen me achieve, so it’s pretty special.”
Perhaps just as important for Fitzpatrick—a member of Europe’s losing side at Hazeltine National in 2016—first-prize brings with it a large pile of Ryder Cup points. Two weeks into the qualifying period for France in 2018, Fitzpatrick is already top of the rankings and off to a flying start in his quest to tee-up at Le Golf National outside Paris next September.