He made hard work of it in the end, but there was no doubt that overnight leader Erik Van Rooyen was a deserving winner of the Scandinavian Invitation. Of course he was. There was a lot of pressure on the 15-foot downhill, right-to-left putt the 29-year-old South African made for a closing birdie, a one-shot edge over runner-up Matt Fitzpatrick and a first European Tour victory.
There was, however, also an element of relief Van Rooyen’s emotional reaction to his breakthrough at the highest level. Three shots clear, 19 under par and bogey free for the first 16 holes of his final round over the Hills Golf & Sports Club just outside Gothenburg in Sweden, Van Rooyen, the 2017 Challenge Tour graduate looked to be an almost certain winner. Competitive golf is rarely that straightforward though. A three-putt bogey from Van Rooyen on the penultimate hole, combined with a brace of closing birdies from Fitzpatrick, the highest-ranked player in the field, left the University of Minnesota alum needing a seventh birdie of the day for a second successive 64 and that long-awaited first-place check.
It went in dead center and set off some dramatic scenes around an 18th green that was all but surrounded by Swedish fans, all hoping for a Henrik Stenson victory. But that wasn’t to be. Stenson, a Gothenburg native who skipped playing in the FedEx Cup Playoff events in order to be in the field in Sweden, made a hole-in-one on the par-3 sixth to briefly tie for the lead but played the next 12 holes in a relatively uneventful one-under par. At the close the 43-year-old was 14 under par and tied for third alongside another South African, Dean Burmeister.
“This is too good … hard to describe,” said Van Rooyen, who twice finished runner-up in this, his second season on the European Tour, in Qatar and Morocco. “I was so nervous on 18. I’d been putting so well all day. I’ve come close a bunch of times and every time I’m in contention the question gets asked on social media. My caddie was amazing today, as he has been since he took the bag in February. My job today was to hit one shot at a time and commit, which I did. I didn’t know where I was until 16. But I got it done. I’m proud of myself.”
So he should be. Winning is hard. And in claiming the 150th European Tour victory by a South African, he confirmed that fact more than conclusively.