Matt's Gloss Finish Sees Fitzpatrick Join Lofty Company in the Swiss Alps
SEVE BALLESTEROS, Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sandy Lyle all have something in common. Apart from the fact that they all won majors, each of them had won four times on the European Tour by the time they were 23 years old. It is pretty lofty company. And the latest to join them is Matthew Fitzpatrick after winning the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.
The Englishman shot a final round of 64 to finish on 14 under par. He then had to sit back and watch as Scott Hend, the 44-year-old Australian, tried to overtake him. He was unable to do so and the two men headed back to the 18th hole to decide who would walk away from the Swiss Alps with a cheque for 450,000 euros.
Both men parred the hole at the first attempt. Back to the tee they went. Fitzpatrick put his approach to about 15 feet, while Hend hit a magnificent shot to four feet. Fitzpatrick struck a glorious putt that appeared destined for the middle of the hole, but at the last second it veered off. Convinced that Hend would hole his birdie putt, Fitzpatrick prepared to shake Hend's hand. But the Australian pulled his putt and had to settle for par.
Fitzpatrick knew that he had got out of jail and as they headed back to the 18th tee for a third time there was a huge difference in the demeanour of the two players. The Englishman had a smile on his face. Hend looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Unsurprisingly, Fitzpatrick found the middle of the fairway, while his opponent carved his drive into a bunker - that was bad enough, but when he got to his ball he discovered that it had finished in a dreadful lie.
Fitzpatrick found the green with his second. All that Hend could do was to address the ball with it way back in his stance, swing at it and hope. His shot barely left the ground but he somehow managed to get it over the water guarding the green. It ran through the green, next to the grandstand. He was given a free drop but the ball buried itself and his chip ran through the green. Fitzpatrick rolled his ball to the side of the hole and when Hend was unable to convert his fourth shot the title was the young Englishman's.
It is the second successive year that Hend has lost this tournament in a playoff. Last year he was beaten by Alex Noren, who finished sixth this time. And he must hate the 18th hole. Last year he twice missed the fairway, once in regulation and again in the playoff. And in four attempts this time around he twice hit his drive into the bunker on the right, and hit a spectator with another drive. He will at least walk away knowing that he did enough to secure his card for another season, but this defeat will hurt him.
Afterwards, Fitzpatrick said: "I love this course. I don't know why, but it just suits my eye. I have made some swing changes and have started hitting the ball with a fade, and it is the perfect shape of shot here. I'm delighted. 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.
"I remember being here in 2015 when Dan [Willett] 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."
The Englishman came into the final round at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club four behind Hend after dropping a shot in the final three holes of his third round in the morning. He had caught Hend by the eighth and when he birdied the 14th, 15th and 16th, he had a two-shot lead before a bogey on the penultimate hole left him back in a share of top spot at 14 under.
Fitzpatrick had finished in the top ten at this event the last two years and this was the second time he had been involved in a final-day shoot-out after losing to Willett by a single shot in 2015.
England's Tyrrell Hatton and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti finished at 11 under, a shot clear of Finn Mikko Ilonen and two ahead of Darren Fichardt, Noren and Lee Slattery.
Hend dropped a shot after finding sand off the tee on the par three third and when he hit a poor drive on the next to surrender another bogey, the lead was down to one. He got a lucky break after hitting his drive into the trees on the fifth and his ball finished in a good lie. He took advantage of his good fortune, hitting his second to 10 feet and holing the putt for a birdie.
Fitzpatrick had birdied the second and although he dropped a shot at the fifth, he bounced back with a birdie on the sixth after a good chip-and-run.
A beautiful chip set up another birdie on the seventh and an excellent tee-shot on the eighth meant he was in a share of the lead. Hend missed the green on the drivable seventh but got up and down for a birdie to get back to level par for the day and into the lead. However, Fitzpatrick hit a beautiful approach into the 10th and rolled in his birdie putt.
Hend powered his way to the side of the ninth green in two and got up and down to make a birdie and led by one approaching the back-to-back par five 14th and 15th. Fitzpatrick hit both in two and made birdies to take the lead and with Hend failing to make birdie at the 14th, Fitzpatrick was back in front. He holed a 20-footer on the 16th to lead by two and appeared to have the title in his pocket. But there was more drama to come as Hend birdied the 15th and Fitzpatrick dropped a shot at the 17th.
Hatton birdied the 13th, 14th, 15th and 18th in a 66. Ilonen finished eagle-par-birdie-birdie in a closing 64.
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