THOMAS Bjorn denied Craig Lee a first European Tour title when he capped a superb final day with victory on the first play-off hole in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.
Following a delay because of fog which would later hold up the golfers on the closing few holes, Bjorn – whose last Tour victory came in the Swiss tournament two years ago – began with a birdie on the par-five first.
The Dane picked up three more ahead of a two on the par-three ninth, which saw him leapfrog overnight leader Lee to head into the turn at 19 under with a two-stroke advantage.
However, Lee – who had held a two-shot cushion after carding a stunning course-record 61 on Saturday – fought back with birdies at the 12th, 14th and 15th.
With a further fog delay for the final group approaching the 18th, Stirling’s Lee was agonisingly close to sinking a birdie for the championship but both men finished the regulation 72 holes locked at 20-under-par.
Lee, 36, recovered from a poor tee shot at the first extra hole to make par. However, that left a birdie opportunity for Bjorn, which the experienced Dane rolled in from 12 feet. The victory was reward for the 42-year-old’s consistency throughout the competition, with just two bogeys in his final card of 264.
“It was nice,” Bjorn told europeantour.com. “I had a really good run through the summer and did not really get close enough. I had to grit my teeth for a while and I really wanted to get out and try to win a golf tournament again. I came in this week not playing particularly great, but promised myself I would stick to how I play this golf course. I did that and had two bogeys in 72 holes, which is good going around here. I felt good and I got over the line.”
Bjorn added: “It was nice to do that in a play-off. I have had a hard time dealing with pressure situations and there is no more pressure than that.”
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson saw his challenge hit by two costly bogeys at the start of the back nine, and had to be content with third place just a shot adrift of forcing a three-man play-off.
Spain’s Alejandro Canizares – who had opened the day with an eagle three – was fourth on 18-under. There was also a frustrating end to the day for England’s Ross Fisher who, after an eagle at the first, dropped shots on the 11th and 16th to finish in a tie with Miguel Angel Jimenez, whose three birdies over the closing four holes brought the veteran Spaniard to 15 under.
France’s Gregory Havret shot the best round of the day, with nine birdies as he finished with an eight-under 63 and tied for seventh.
On the Ladies European Tour, Australian Rebecca Artis took her first title with a one-shot victory over home favourite Caroline Hedwall at the Helsingborg Open in Sweden.
Hedwall had started the final day with a commanding four-stroke advantage but, in windy conditions, had a double-bogey six at the fifth hole before dropping two more shots at the start of the back nine.
Although the 24-year-old Solheim Cup winning Swede recovered a stroke on the par-three 17th, Artis had moved to take full advantage with birdies at the seventh and eight. The Australian picked up three more shots over the closing nine holes, which meant her bogey on the 18th did not prove costly.
Valentine Derrey of France finished third on five under after a final round 73, two strokes ahead of South African Lee-Anne Pace, whose three bogeys on the back nine saw her challenge fade with a 75, while an error-strewn five-over-par final round put paid to the hopes of Denmark’s Malene Jorgensen.
Elsewhere, there was a vintage round from England’s Laura Davies, whose seven-birdie 69 propelled her up from 20th overnight into fifth place.