Connor Syme lit up his rookie season on the European Tour in spectacular fashion by rolling in a 50-foot birdie putt on the final hole to finish second behind Finland’s Mikko Korhonen in the inaugural Shot Clock Masters in Austria.
A massive smile showing exactly what the grandstand finish meant to him, the Scot’s brilliant effort earned him just under £100,000, lifted him from 206th to 101st in the Race to Dubai and is set to jump more than 200 spots to around 530th in the world rankings.
“My granny and grandad are great Sky Golf watchers back in Ladybank and I am sure my grandad will be in tears definitely and my family, as well,” admitted the 22-year-old after signing off with a 69 for a ten-under-par 278 total.
In what effectively became a battle for second spot at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna – Korhonen led by five shots at the start of the day and was never really challenged as he won by six to claim his maiden European Tour victory – Syme made three birdies in the first six holes.
He then dropped back-to-back shots at the seventh and eighth but recovered well from those setbacks to cover the final ten holes in two-under. He’d already birdied the tenth before rolling in that monster putt at the last as he birdied that for the third day running.
“I did not hit a very good tee shot there at 18, but then I felt like it was a special week and I just fancied myself to do something really classy at the end and that birdie putt dropping is a dream come true,” admitted Syme, who is coached by his dad, Stuart, at Drumoig Golf Centre. Syme, a former Australian Amateur champion, turned professional last September following the Walker Cup in Los Angeles. He finished joint-12th in the Portugal Masters on his debut in the paid ranks and backed that up with another eye-catching effort when claiming a share of 15th position in the Dunhill Links Championship.
His best finish in 12 previous starts on the European Tour in 2018 had been joint-11th in the Tshwane Open, making the cut in just three of those outings, but now he’s hoping to use this performance to kick on and retain his card by finishing in the top 100 in the Race to Dubai at the end of the season.
“It’s massive as I have had a couple of decent results on the European Tour since I’ve gained my card and this result will turn things around a lot,” added Syme. “It will obviously open a few doors and get me into the Rolex Series events as they are massive, and to be able to get into them will be brilliant.”
Shrugging off two weather delays, Korhonen carded a closing 69 to finish 16 under par, six shots ahead of Syme, with Steve Webster, Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Walters and Raphael Jacquelin all finishing on nine-under.
Korhonen, 37, paid 12 trips to the European Tour Qualifying School and needed eight attempts to earn his card, winning the marathon test in 2014. This victory came in his 146th start on the European Tour.
“It feels great, beautiful,” said Korhonen. “It’s been a long wait so it feels so good. I’ve been up there a couple of times and couldn’t do it at those times, but now I’m so happy and relieved that I have done it. It’s not easy to win, especially not the first win, so I’m really happy to have done it. I have no words, it’s so good.”
Four players, including Grant Forrest, received one-shot penalties during the week for taking more than the allotted time to play their shots, while Andrea Pavan successfully appealed against his penalty in the third round.
“I think we saw this week that this can definitely improve the game. It also shows that if players get into the mindset then they can play quicker,” said European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.
“I think it makes for a better viewing experience, better customer experience at the tournaments and the golfers love it.”