Finn Sami Valimaki wins Oman Open in sixth European Tour start

Finland’s Sami Valimaki landed a maiden European Tour win in just his sixth event as Scottish pair Connor Syme and Grant Forrest both claimed a top-10 finish in the Oman Open.

Finland's Sami Valimaki won the Oman Open at the third extra hole in a sudden-death play-off at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
Finland's Sami Valimaki won the Oman Open at the third extra hole in a sudden-death play-off at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

Valimaki, a 21-year-old who won four times on the third-tier Pro Golf Tour last year before claiming his European Tour card through the Qualifying School, beat South African Brandon Stone at the third hole in a play-off at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat.

In a dramatic finish, 2018 Scottish Open champion Stone holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to get to 13-under-par, celebrating wildly as the ball went straight into the centre of the hole.

Playing in the final group, Valimaki produced a brilliant up and down at the par-5 16th before rolling in a putt from a similar distance to Stone to match his 3 at the closing hole and force the sudden-death shoot-out.

The pair halved the 18th in pars on the first two attempts to find a winner before a par proved good enough for Valimaki at the third visit after Stone, pictured inset, was unable to get up and down following a wayward approach.

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“It’s awesome,” said Valimaki, who was watched in the play-off by a number of his compatriots, including Mikko Korhonen, who was also in the mix before finishing joint-fourth. “There are not many words to say, it’s unbelievable.” He was outside the top 100 after an opening 74 before bouncing back with a 67 and then catapulting himself into contention with a sensational 64 in Saturday’s third round on the Greg Norman-designed course on the banks of the Gulf of Oman.

That stunning 64 put Valimaki alongside Stone in a six-way tie for the lead with 18 holes to play.

“I thought I was going to miss the putt on the last in regulation but thank god it went to the hole and gave me the chance to win the tournament,” added Valimaki, who joins the now retired Mikko Ilonen, Korhonen and Kalle Samooja as European Tour champions. Tapio Pulkkanen, Kim Koivu and Roope Kakko have also tasted success on the Challenge Tour in recent 
seasons.

“It is great that more Finnish golfers are doing well in the sport and golf is getting 
more popular there in 
Finland,” said Valimaki, who is set to jump to around 160th in the Race to Dubai. 
While he missed out on this occasion, Stone is confident that a return to the winner’s circle is just around the corner. “Obviously I’m a little disappointed but I’m really proud with how I played over the last four days,” he said. “It feels like I’m closer again. My confidence and swing are starting to come back.”

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Syme and Forrest signed off with matching 68s to finish alongside six others in a share of tenth spot on eight-under. Syme’s last-day salvo was set up by a burst of five birdies in seven holes around the turn, while he made an eagle and a birdie in the last three holes.

Stephen Gallacher, who had shared the halfway lead before suffering a sore finish to the third round, closed with a 74 to end up in joint-30th on five-under, with a 72 leaving Calum Hill just outside the top 50 on one-under.

Meanwhile, Scottish duo Kylie Henry and Michele Thomson both finished in the top 10 as Swede Julia Engstrom cashed in on a last-day collapse by Belgium’s Manon De Roey to win the Women’s NSW Open.

Henry saved her best for last, closing with a 68 for a 
four-under total, finishing joint-ninth alongside Thomson after she carded a 73. Gemma Dryburgh made it three Scots in the top 20 as she finished on one-under after a 75.

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Engstrom, 18, claimed her maiden LET title as she came from five strokes behind at the start of the day to win by two shots, closing with a 68 as De Roey slumped to a 75.