Matthew Fitzpatrick, winner of the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, gave himself the perfect fillip as the countdown to the defence of his title at Jumeirah Golf Estates begins by claiming his fourth European Tour title in dramatic fashion at the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur Sierre Golf Club in Switzerland.
The 23 year old, who won the Race to Dubai’s grand finale with a one-stroke victory over Tyrrell Hatton last year, had endured a relatively quiet season with just two top ten finishes to his name prior to arriving in Switzerland. But, after beating Australia’s Scott Hend at the third hole of a sudden-death play-off to win 450,000 points and move from 30th to 12th in the rankings, the Englishman is now in a strong position with ten tournaments including four big-money Rolex Series events culminating in the Dubai showpiece on the Earth course from November 16 – 19, still to play.
“I hope this win is a turning point for me,” said Fitzpatrick who has now won at least one European Tour title in each of his three seasons on Tour and finished fourth in his DP World Tour Championship debut in 2015 before last year’s victory. “It had been a bit of a disappointing season for me so far but this is my third year now on Tour with a win under my belt so I’m really happy with that and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season now.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to the DP World Tour Championship to defend my title and now that I’ve won, my confidence is higher than it has been all season. Hopefully I can keep this momentum heading into the final four events of the season and then be ready to put in a strong title defense at Jumeirah Golf Estates.”
Fitzpatrick started the final round four shots behind leader Hend but turned on the style with four birdies in an electric front nine of 32 before repeating the feat down the homeward stretch to match the 44 year old at 14 under par 266.
It looked like Hend, who also missed out on Omega European Masters glory in a play-off to Alex Noren last year, was headed for victory on the second repeat trip up the 18th but he missed a six-foot birdie putt to let Fitzpatrick back in.
The Ryder Cup star capitalized when Hend found the bunker with his next tee shot and then overshot the green leaving Fitzpatrick to get up and down for victory with a par before enjoy an embrace with his proud parents.
“It’s never nice to see,” said Fitzpatrick of his play-off opponent’s misfortune, “but we kept our nerve and just played really smart all week.”
Despite missing out in the Swiss mountains for the second year running, Hend earned 300,000 points for this runner-up finish and moved from 55th to 31st place in the Race to Dubai, his season-total of 762,814 meaning he is all but guaranteed to join Fitzpatrick in the DP World Tour Championship field, open only to the top 60 players on the rankings.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti shared third place, each claiming 152,010 points. Hatton progressed from 45th to 35th while Zanotti jumped from 24th to 21st in the Race to Dubai.
Finland’s Mikko Ilonen finished in fifth place to win 114,480 points, which moved him from 140th to 106th while South Africa’s Darren Fichardt, Sweden’s Alex Noren and England’s Lee Slattery shared sixth place, each gaining 81,000 points in the process.
Fichardt moved from 106th to 82nd in the rankings, Noren solidified fifth position and increased his season tally to 1,986,031 points while Slattery jumped from 74th to 63rd place to continue his recent run of form as he hunts down a place in the top 60.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood remains at the head of the rankings with 3,771,122 points, while Spaniard Sergio Garcia is in second with a season-tally of 2,799,255 points and his young compatriot Jon Rahm sits in third spot on 2,761,857.
Top 10 Race to Dubai Rankings after the Omega European Masters
|4||Rafa CABRERA BELLO||(ESP)||2,124,686|