By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 25/08/19 5:35pm
Erik van Rooyen finally landed his maiden European Tour victory at the Scandinavian Invitation after he holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the final green to pip Matt Fitzpatrick to the title.
Van Rooyen, a runner-up in Qatar and Morocco this season while posting three other top-eight finishes, atoned for a bogey at 17 with the winning birdie on the 72 green to cap a 64 which earned him a one-shot victory over Fitzpatrick in Gothenburg.
Home favourite Henrik Stenson had briefly soared into a share of the lead early on when he made a hole-in-one at the sixth, but the tournament later developed into a two-way battle between the South African and the Englishman, who birdied four of the last six holes but bogeys at 14 and 16 would prove his undoing.
Van Rooyen led by one overnight and made a steady start to his final round, picking up birdies at the third and fifth before three in a row around the turn lifted him three clear at the top of the leaderboard.
But Fitzpatrick kept the pressure on and followed a solid outward 33 with birdies at 11 and 13, but his first blemish of the day at 14 set him back before he bounced back in spirited fashion with his sixth birdie of the day at the 15th.
Fitzpatrick erred again at 16 but his response was again impressive, holing a monster putt for an unlikely birdie on the penultimate green before an eagle putt from similar range at the last pulled up a few inches short of the cup.
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Van Rooyen matched Fitzpatrick’s birdie at 13, but his nerves were clear on the penultimate green when he left a long-distance birdie putt four feet short and a tentative prod for par lipped out on the left side to raise the prospect of a play-off.
He then tugged his drive into the first cut of rough at the par-five last and a bold second came up just short of the green, from where he got a little heavy-handed with his pitch and left himself an awkward, downhill putt for the win.
But Van Rooyen was up to the task and judged the putt to perfection, landing his first win in the big leagues, earning a cheque for 250,000 euros and moving into the top 10 on the Race to Dubai standings.
“It’s too good, it’s hard to describe,” said Van Rooyen, whose victory was the 150th by a South African on the European Tour. “I was so nervous on 18. On 17 I was fine, I just didn’t hit that first putt hard enough and then I asked (caddie) Alex, ‘what are we at?’ and he told me that Matt went birdie-birdie.
“I’ve been putting so well all day and to hole that one to win my first one is pretty cool. I’ve gone close a bunch of times and every time I’m in contention the question gets asked. I’m just so proud of myself and Alex and everybody, I’m over the moon.”
Fitzpatrick’s 64 was plenty enough to secure outright second ahead of Stenson, who made only two more birdies after his thrilling ace at the sixth as he settled for a 66 and a share of third place with Dean Burmester on 14 under par.
European Tour Golf
August 26, 2019, 8:00pm