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Pieters holds nerve to win in Portugal

Belgian Thomas Pieters has fired a three-under-par 68 in the final round of the Portugal Masters to clinch the title by two strokes for his fifth European Tour crown.

The 29-year-old came into the final round on Sunday at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura sharing the lead with France’s Matthieu Pavon, but began with a bogey on the first hole before recovering with an eagle on the fifth.

He carded birdies before and after the turn and followed that up with another bogey, but gained a stroke on the penultimate hole before finishing 19-under for the tournament.

Pavon had three birdies on the front nine, but disaster struck on the 12th with a triple bogey as he found water three times. He had to settle for a 70 and share second place with Danes Lucas Bjerregaard and Nicolai Hojgaard at 17-under overall.

Australia’s Min-Woo Lee shot 66 to finish level eighth on 11 under.

Victory took Pieters back into the world’s top 100 and secured his spot in the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai.

“It feels amazing,” said the former Ryder Cup player, who last captured a title at the 2019 Czech Masters. “It felt like a long time between victories but (caddie) Adam Marrow and I worked so hard and it felt like a deserved one.

“”It does (feel like a long time),” he said. “Two years is a long time. I’ve had a child in the meantime, who talks and runs around, it does feel like a long time.

“I was going into this week and next week with my back to the wall. I had nothing to lose but everything to gain.

“I’ve never missed the end of the Race to Dubai and really didn’t want to miss it. I didn’t care if I finished first, second or third. I just wanted to get there, but winning is amazing.”

Victory took the former Ryder Cup player back into the world’s top 100 and secured his spot in the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai.

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