Australia’s Brett Rumford overcame a late wobble to win the Ballantine’s Championship after a play-off with compatriot Marcus Fraser and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford.
An eagle at the first extra hole gave the 35 year old a fourth European Tour title and first for six years after a closing 68 left him level with Fraser (68) and Whiteford (69) on 11 under par.
Rumford had raced to the turn in just 30 strokes in the final round and still led by two shots with two holes to play, only to run up a double-bogey six on the 17th after a wild drive led to a penalty drop from a bush.
Another errant tee-shot on the 18th meant Rumford eventually had to hole from eight feet to save par, and when Fraser was also unable to birdie the 543 yard par five, Whiteford knew he needed a four to win.
The 32 year old chipped to five feet after missing the green with his approach, but missed the birdie putt to finish alongside Rumford and Fraser on 11 under.
The three returned to the 18th tee and, after a quick call to coach Pete Cowen, Rumford hit a much better drive and having seen his opponents fail to reach the green in two fired a brilliant approach to four feet and eagled.
“A lot of thanks go to Pete,” said Rumford. “I battled with my driver constantly and I guess that’s what keeps me out of most golf tournaments.
“I left a few drives right – it wasn’t just the last two drives, it was the whole back nine I was feeling stuck and a little bit trapped – had a quick word with Pete and hit a five or six balls off the first tee and it obviously did the trick.
“It was an absolute rollercoaster ride of emotions out there this afternoon, obviously my last five holes yesterday and front nine today got me in a great position to take this tournament. Ballantine’s is always a tremendous sponsor and it’s just a great event.”
Rumford, who finished his third round with five consecutive birdies at Blackstone Golf Club, took that run to seven when he opened with a 20 footer on the first green then fired his approach to five feet at the next.
He then had three pars but a bunker shot to three feet at the sixth sparked a run of four straight birdies and he looked in complete control until his six-five finish.
Afterwards Rumford admitted it had been a difficult spell since his last triumph, and thanked his wife Sally for her support the day before her birthday.
“It was mixed emotions coming home and I’m really lost for words at the moment but there are a lot of people I need to thank – starting with my wife Sally,” said Rumford, after delivering a perfect early gift with his €367,500 winner’s cheque.
“It’s been pretty hard golf-wise and raising twins is not easy; she’s an amazing lady and she’s a great support to me and that’s why I’m standing here today.
“I’m really pleased with the result and I owe a lot to Ronnie my caddy and I’ve got a great team around me.”
While Whiteford was understandably frustrated to miss out on a maiden victory, earning enough to secure his card for next season was some consolation having not recorded a top-ten finish since August.
“I’m sure once it’s all settled it will be a great week,” he said. “Probably made just enough to keep my card now – I know that’s not what I should be thinking about, but I’ve done that and can press on for the rest of the season.
“Guys like me don’t get many chances to win tournaments, and whatever it was, four or five feet, hit a decent putt and didn’t go in. But to be fair, at least we got beat by a three on the last and didn’t throw it away – Brett deserves it in the play-off there.”
France’s Romain Wattel finished fourth on nine under par, with World Number Seven Louis Oosthuizen a shot further back. Overnight leader Alex Noren suffered a penalty shot at the second when his ball moved a fraction as he addressed his par putt, eventually carding a 74 to finish in a tie for sixth.