He made hard work of it, but for the second straight year Matt Fitzpatrick is the Omega European Masters champion. Despite battling an unreliable long game over most of the final day—many shots finished left of their targets—the 24-year-old Englishman got himself round Switzerland’s endlessly picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre course in 67 to reach 17 under par for the week and into a playoff with Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard.
It took only one extra hole to settle matters. Having birdied the 402-yard par-4 18th from eight feet to make it to extra holes, Fitzpatrick repeated the feat half an hour later—this time from 15 feet—to clinch his fifth European Tour victory and the €418,660 first prize. He also became the first repeat winner of the event since Seve Ballesteros in 1977-'78.
All of which will go at least some way to making up for not qualifying for what would have been a second Ryder Cup appearance in France later this month. Needing a victory at the Made in Denmark event last week to claim the final automatic spot in the 12-man squad, Fitzpatrick could do no better than finish T-7.
“That was tough, really tough,” Fitzpatrick said. “Of all my wins this year has been the most difficult. I didn’t have my A-game, didn’t play my best. But I ground it out and made some crucial birdies. I’m delighted to win again at a place I love. It means a lot.
“The up-and down I made for birdie on the seventh was key really. I had just dropped a shot on the sixth, but that got me back on track and within touching distance. And I didn’t make any sloppy mistakes coming in. Overall, I actually played way better than I did last year. My aim today was just to go out and win rather than rely on the others not playing well enough.”
To his credit, Fitzpatrick didn’t sound bitter about the timing of the win and how he was one of the odd-men out for Thomas Bjorn’s captain’s picks.
“As for the Ryder Cup, I just didn’t play well enough this summer,” Fitzpatrick said. “I certainly don’t have any hard feelings about Thomas not picking me.”
Not surprisingly, Bjerregaard, who closed with a bogey-free seven-under 63, was a disappointed figure at the end of what had already been quite a week for Danish golf. Only days after Bjorn added his four wildcard picks to complete the European side that will challenge the Americans later this month, three of his young compatriots clinched victory at the World Amateur Team Championship in Ireland. Just 24 hours after that unprecedented triumph, a victory on the European Tour would have provided the icing on an already large cake.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera, winless now in 167 European Tour starts, will also have cause for regret. In particular, he will long rue the decision to go for the distant green from the trees left of the par-5 14th fairway. Unplayable in two, the amiable Frenchman eventually made what turned out to be a disastrous double-bogey 7. Finding water with his approach to the final green only compounded his misery, as he finished alone in third place, two strokes out of the playoff.
One last thing. American Doug Ghim, runner-up in last year’s U.S Amateur Championship at Riviera, shot a closing 71 and finished T-8.