Connor Syme wins Turkish Airlines Challenge with play-off birdie

Connor Syme made a winning start in his first season on the Challenge Tour, justifying his decision to bypass the Trophee Hassan II on the European Tour by landing the Turkish Airlines Challenge in Atakum on the Black Sea coast.

Connor Syme shows off the Turkish Airlines Challenge after his victory at Samsun Golf Club in Akatum on the Black Sea coast. Picture: Getty Images

The 25-year-old Drumoig man birdied the first extra hole to beat Italian Francesco Laporta in a play-off after the pair had finished locked together on 23-under-par in a low-scoring event at Samsun Golf Club.

Syme’s success was the fifth tartan triumph on the second-tier circuit in less than 12 months, handing him a huge early boost in his bid to secure a spot back on the main tour next season.

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“I’m absolutely delighted,” he said after twice bouncing back from potentially-damaging bogeys over the closing stretches with birdies at the next hole as he closed with a five-under-par 67 for a 265 total.

Winner Connor Syme is drenched in water by fellow Scots Ewen Ferguson and Calum Hill after securing his play-off victory. Picture: Getty Images

“It was a tough day. The scoring has been crazy low the whole week. I had a feeling that I had to get to 25-under today - that was my target and I was just going to try and play my own game.

“But it is so difficult when you see the leaderboards going round and maybe guys weren’t pushing as much as you had thought.”

Syme, who started the day three shots behind leader Adrian Meronk from Poland, got off to the perfect start as he birdied second, third and fourth before dropping a shot at fifth.

The former Australian Amateur champion then picked up shots at the seventh, ninth and 11th, the latter earning him a share of the lead with Dane Mark Flindt Haastrup after he’d reeled off five birdies on the spin from the third.

Connor Syme on his way to a closing five-under-par 67 in a low-scoring Turkish Airlines Challenge at Samsun Golf Club. Picture: Getty Images

Haastrup’s hopes were eventually undone by back-to-back bogeys to finish, leaving Syme and Laporta in a sudden-death shoot-out, which the Scot won by confidently rolling in a six-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

“The last few holes are challenging and I got a bit unlucky on 14 to make 6. I was inches away from being a really good opportunity to make birdie and I am glad that I composed myself, making a really good birdie on 17 to give myself a chance,” added Syme, who is coached by his dad Stuart, the PGA pro at Drumoig Golf Centre.

“It was great to play with Francesco. We shot the same score playing with each other two days in a row. It was good that I finished with a birdie to separate us in the end.

“I felt last night that I was in the perfect position. The wat the course is it is difficult to keep pushing the whole time and when you are ahead it is probably harder.

“I was in a good position where I wasn’t sleeping on a lead. I was there to shoot a number and I was able to do that.

“Of all the holes, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to play 18 in the play-off as I haven’t really got a club for it. I’ve got a 5-wood in the bag this week and that brings in the bunker on the left.

“I just had to a 4-iron off the tee and I had 190 in regular time and it was right in between a 7 and 8 for me as it was a little down breeze. I had to hit 8 and try and draw it and didn’t quite get it and had to hole a good putt for par.

“In the play-off, I had 197 and quickly pulled 7 as it was the shot I had been practising on the range, so it was the right shot at the right time and I am absolutely delighted.”

In his rookie season on the European Tour, Syme finished runner-up in the Shot Clock Masters in Austria before narrowly missing out on holding on to his card.

He played in six main Tour events at the start of this season, but has been gearing up over the past few weeks for the Challenge Tour, where Grant Forrest, Liam Johnston, David Law and Bob MacIntyre were all graduates last year.

“It is massive,” admitted Syme of his winning start. “A few people might have been thinking why I hadn’t gone to Morocco this week, so it was good to come here and win to justify my decision.

“It sets me up really well for the rest of the season and hopefully it is just the start.”

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