What Does Tommy Fleetwood Have to Do to Win on American Soil?
Tommy Fleetwood must be starting to wonder what on earth he has to do to win a PGA Tour event. The Englishman took a one-shot lead into the final round of the Honda Classic and after birdies at the opening two holes he quickly extended that to three shots. He also had a short birdie putt at the third but missed it.
But in breezy conditions, two dropped shots saw him fall back into a share of the lead heading into the back nine.
A bogey at the 13th had him playing catch-up as Sungjae Im produced some superb golf. The South Korean birdied the 15th and 17th - two of the three holes on the course's famous Bear Trap - and set the clubhouse target.
But when he came to the 17th hole Fleetwood still had a chance to win. And when he holed a 25-foot birdie putt it pulled him back to within one shot of Im, who was already in the clubhouse after signing for a 66. With just the par-five 18th to play, Fleetwood needed a birdie to force a playoff.
He struck a perfect drive, leaving himself around 240 yards from the green. Although there was water all the way down the right side, Fleetwood wanted to hit a cut. Unfortunately he overdid it and looked on as his approach found a watery grave. He would eventually walk off with a bogey, finishing in third place.
It meant that Im won his first PGA Tour title, with Mackenzie Hughes finished alone in second and Fleetwood in third.
He shot 71 on Sunday after starting the final round with a one-shot lead. “I didn’t do much wrong,” Fleetwood said. “It came down to slim margins. It’s disappointing. It was close. At the end of the day, I felt like I was really good mentally, hung in there until the end and gave myself a chance. You live or die by the shots you hit.
"That's golf. Of course, I'm frustrated, upset, but I'm fine. I feel like I'm quite a consistent player. I got up there and had a chance of winning. I'm not doing that as much as I would like, but winning is hard. You have to keep pushing forward and I'm not getting worse at golf. I'm getting better."
Fleetwood moved to 62nd in the FedExCup with his best finish since his runner-up at last year’s Open Championship.
It was his third consecutive top-five on the Florida Swing. He finished fifth at the Players Championship last year and third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. He is also the only member of the world’s top 20 never to have won on American soil.
Lee Westwood shot a level-par 70 to finish joint fourth on three under, while fellow Englishman Luke Donald was two shots further back after closing with a 72.
Sami Valimaki stunned Brandon Stone - and probably himself - by defeating the South African in a playoff to secure the Oman Open.
In difficult and breezy conditions, Stone and Valimaki held the lead on their own during the final day but it was Frenchman Adrien Saddier who set the clubhouse target at 12 under par.
Stone celebrated after holing a 20 footer on the last to get to 13 under but there was more drama to come as Valimaki holed from similar range for his own closing birdie and a round of 70 to take the contest to extra holes.
The pair halved the 18th in pars twice but when Stone sent his second shot crashing into the stand on the third trip and failed to get up and down, a par was enough to hand Valimaki victory.
A putt to force a play-off ????— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) March 2, 2020
The rest is history... pic.twitter.com/S8sEPzAZoq
Saddier finished in a tie for fourth at the Portugal Masters in October but came into this tournament with no real form to speak of. He came into the week in 180th place in the Race to Dubai and with just three career top-10 finishes to his name. He is only 27 years old but has already been back to qualifying school on six occasions. And when he dropped two shots early in his round, it looked like it was going to be another disappointing day for the Frenchman.
But then he found some magic on the greens with birdies at the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth helping him to reach the turn in 34, two under for the day. And with everybody else around him starting to fritter away shots on a warm but windy day, he picked up further birdies at the 15th and 16th holes and, with just two holes to play, the Frenchman led by a stroke. Could he keep it together?
For much of the final round it seemed that Englishman Callum Shinkwin was finally about to win his first European Tour title. The Englishman entered the day in a share of top spot and turned in 35 to get to 12 under.
At that point, French duo Saddier and Clement Sordet, teenage Dane Rasmus Højgaard, Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, England’s Jordan Smith, South African Brandon Stone and 21-year-old Finn Sam Valimaki were all a shot behind.
The overnight six-way tie at 11 under soon became a five-way tie at 12 under but Hojgaard was the first player to strike out on his own. After taking advantage of the par five third, the 18-year-old put his tee shot to four feet on the fifth to hit the front on 13 under, but a bogey on the sixth brought him back to the pack at 12 under.
Sordet birdied the second and fourth before a very long putt at the fifth put him in a share, while Shinkwin birdied the third but gave the shot straight back on the next. Valimaki had birdied the second but found sand off the tee at the fourth for a bogey before capitalising on the par five seventh.
2018: Undertakes his Finnish Military service ?????— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) March 1, 2020
2019: Turns Pro ???????
2020: Wins on the European Tour in just his 6th ever appearance ????
What a ride, @sami_valimaki. pic.twitter.com/1XweWfX8Jx
Shinkwin left himself 12 feet for a birdie and a share at the eighth but Valimaki put his tee shot to four feet and hit the front on his own. Hojgaard three putted from just off the ninth green to drop to 11 under and Sordet slipped into that group when he three putted the tenth. Valimaki found sand with his second at the ninth and flew his third over the green from a poor lie, signing for a double bogey to leave Shinkwin on his own at the top.
Migliozzi had birdied the first but gave the shot straight back on the second before making the most of the third and putting an approach to three feet at the fourth. He then bogeyed the eighth to fall back. Stone made a birdie on the third but bogeyed the next to turn in level par. Nicolas Colsaerts was at ten under, a shot clear of clubhouse leader George Coetzee, who fired an impressive 66.
With the nerves kicking in, Saddier came up short at with his second at the 17th and chose to putt from fully 100 feet away but came up fully 15 feet short. And when he missed it he fell back to 12 under par, tied with Stone, who was playing the par-five 16th. The South African hit a wonderful second but it tumbled back off the front of the green, leaving him a horrible pitch over a bunker. His third rolled eight feet beyond the hole and he missed the birdie putt.
Valimaki was struggling to hold on but drained a succession of crucial par putts to remain in contention - quite a performance for a 21 year old making only his sixth European Tour appearance.
He claimed his card at the Qualifying School and after securing a first top ten at the ISPS Handa Vic Open, he is now a winner. "It's awesome," he said. "There are not many words to say, it's unbelievable.After the ninth hole when I made a double I knew that the tenth hole is good and I had to make a birdie on that.
"I didn't make a really good par on 11 and after that bogey I felt like, 'okay this is gone'. But then I just grinded, made three birdies and on the last, an awesome birdie."
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