DENMARK’S Thorbjorn Olesen claimed his maiden European Tour title yesterday, holding off a strong late challenge from England’s Chris Wood at the Sicilian Open.
Wood equalled the course record with a brilliant eight-under-par 64 in perfect conditions at the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort to charge into contention, but overnight leader Olesen held his nerve to post a 69 and win by one shot on 15-under.
The 22-year-old Dane told www.europeantour.com: “It feels amazing. I had three seconds last year, so to finally get my first win is great. I’ve been playing some great golf this year, without all parts of my game coming together. But this week my long and short game both came together, and it feels fantastic to finally get over the line.
“I saw he [Wood] was doing well when I arrived at the ninth, so I knew I had to go for it and make birdies, so it kind of made up my mind for me that I had to play attacking golf.
“I was definitely a bit nervous. I was just trying to focus on one shot at a time, but that’s very difficult to do because your mind keeps thinking of other things. But I’m really happy to finish with a par on 18, because it’s a really tough golf hole. So when I found the green with my second shot, I was very happy.”
Olesen had a mixed opening, carding two bogeys and two birdies over his first five holes. He had started the day with a three-shot advantage but soon found himself pegged back today as Wood joined him on 14-under.
The 24-year-old from Bristol, himself seeking his first Tour crown after five previous top-three finishes, was five-under through five after birdies on the second, third and fifth holes and an eagle on four, and had advanced to eight-under for the day to earn a share of the lead with six holes remaining.
He picked up another shot with a further birdie on 14 but blotted his copybook with a bogey on the par-5 17th, which ultimately proved costly.
Olesen dropped a shot on 13 but got straight back on track with a birdie on 14 and then got over the line by parring the last four holes.
Tied for fourth at the start of the day, Lloyd Saltman had to settle for a share of 19th at the finish after he closed with a 73 for 281, a total matched by two of his compatriots, Richie Ramsay (65) and Scott Jamieson (66).
Saltman went out in two-under but came home in three-over to miss out on a considerably bigger cheque than the one he earned for just over £9,000.
Bouncing back from a disappointing 76 on Saturday, Ramsay bagged seven birdies – one more than Jamieson – as the two Scots both produced flawless final rounds to catapult themselves up the leaderboard.
Alastair Forsyth (70) and Craig Lee (72) tied for 41st on 285, one less than Gary Orr, who had been up amongst the leaderboards after an opening 66 but then had rounds of 73, 75 and 72.