Lucas Bjerregard Produces Under Pressure at Portugal Masters
LUCAS BJERREGARD rescued his season and possibly even his career with a superb closing round of 65 to win the Portugal Masters. At the start of the week the Dane was in danger of losing his card. Now he has put those fears to rest, earning a two-year exemption, rocketing up the Race to Dubai rankings and giving himself a chance of making the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
Bjerregard's final round meant that he won the tournament by four shots at Vilamoura, with Scotland's Marc Warren finishing second. It was also an important week for Warren, who began the day in 173rd place in the Race to Dubai.
The Dane was thrilled with his play. He led at the start of play and never looked like being caught.
“Today is up there with one of my best rounds,” said 26-year-old Bjerregaard. “Not so much the six under around here, I’ve done that before, but under the pressure some of the shots I hit – the two shots I hit on the 17th, for instance, are some of the best I’ve hit in a long time. I felt like it was my time to go out and grab it and not wait for someone to hand it to me.”
Bjerregaard was a shot clear heading into the final round and holed a ten foot birdie putt on the first to ease the pressure as he chased his first Eueropean Tour title. An excellent pitch to eight feet set up another birdie on the fourth and he added another at the fifth after getting up and down from a bunker at the par five. When he holed a 25-footer for another birdie at the eighth, he appeared to be on cruise control.
A shot went at the ninth after a poor chip, allowing George Coetzee and Graeme Storm to close the gap, but birdies at the 10th and 11th holes meant that somebody was going to have to produce something quite extraordinary to catch Bjerregaard.
The leader dropped another shot on the 14th after finding sand from the tee, but he birdied the 15th and 17th (his seventh and eighth of the round) to complete a commanding victory.
Bjerregaard was under huge pressure at the start of the week - he lay 114th in the Race to Dubai, with only the top 100 keeping their cards.
“It feels really good,” he added. “It’s definitely not been the year I’ve been looking for. To be honest it’s been really tough, so to be in contention again felt really good and to come out on top feels even better," he said.
“I felt pretty confident. My girlfriend asked me this morning if I was nervous and I said ‘No, don’t worry I’ve got this’, probably more to calm her down than anything. I’ve been in this position a couple of times before so to finally come through and get my first win feels really good.”
Warren improved his chances of retaining his card with a closing 67 which gave him outright second when Coetzee found water at the last and ran up a triple bogey.
Storm and fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell tied for third on 15 under, with home favourites Ricardo Gouveia and José-Filipe Lima a shot further back.
There was another first-time winner on the Challenge Tour, with Tapio Pulkkanen beating Chase Koepka in a three-hole playoff at the Kazakhstan Open. The Finn started the day one shot behind overnight leader Erik van Rooyen but managed to overtake his playing partner after three birdies over the front nine at Nurtau Golf Club.
The big-hitting 27 year old added three further birdies at the 10th, 13th and 17th for a closing round of 68 and a 17-under-par total, which matched that of American Koepka after his own superb score of 66, leading to a play-off in Kazakhstan – just the second in the event’s 12-year history.
Both players teed it up again on the 18th and both had birdie chances after finding the green on the par-four hole. Koepka shaved the cup with his effort from 25 feet, while Pulkkanen saw his effort slide by from 12 feet.
They both failed to reach the green during their second attempt at the 18th, but got up and down from the fringe with ease to take the tournament to a third extra hole.
At the third time of asking, Koepka hit his second into trees, while found the heart of the green to set up a simple two-putt for par.Kopeka was unable to match him.
With this victory, combined with two runner-up finishes earlier in the season, Pulkkanen overtook Aaron Rai to become the new leader on the Road to Oman.
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