Irish duo out of luck on Bjerregaard's big day
Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington finished in the pack but Irish eyes were still smiling as Lucas Bjerregaard claimed an impressive maiden victory in the Portugal Masters on the Algarve.
The Dane (26) picked up €333,330 after he closed with an impressive six-under-par 65 to win by four strokes from Scotland's Marc Warren on 20-under par, securing his tour card and a juicy percentage for his Irish caddie Brian Martin.
Just three strokes off the pace at halfway following a second-round 64, Lowry had something of a lost weekend at Dom Pedro Victoria Course in Vilamoura, as he remained on nine-under following rounds of 70 and 72 to finish 11 strokes behind the winner in a share of 28th.
Defending champion Harrington finished one shot better in a tie for 25th on 10-under thanks to a two-under 69 yesterday.
Despite all that, both men will have seen plenty of positives in their games as the European Tour season comes to a climax.
While Harrington now has a week off, Lowry joins Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne in this week's £3m British Masters at Close House near Newcastle knowing his game is in decent shape after a recent four-week break.
He will still have hoped for more at the course were he won his maiden professional title in 2012, having gone into the final round just four shots off the pace. But while he birdied the fifth to get within three strokes of Bjerregaard on 11-under-par, he bogeyed the ninth for the third time in four days, then came home in a one-over 37 with a lone birdie at the 14th cancelled out by bogeys at the 11th and 18th.
Lowry remains outside the top 60 in the rankings who will contest the season-ending DP World Tour Championship though he moved up from 86th to 78th thanks to his cheque for €17,200.
But that's no longer a worry for Bjerregaard, who was a tenuous 114th in the Race to Dubai starting the week with only the top 100 set to keep their playing rights at the end of the season.
Now ranked 47th and exempt until the end of 2019, he said: "I have been out here for four years now and to be honest, you start to doubt that it is ever going to happen because you know you have got to have a week where it all comes together. Luckily this was the week for me.
"It has been tough. I have had a couple of chances before and not taken advantage of them so to come out on top now is really nice."
Just one stroke ahead of South Africa's George Coetzee starting the final day, Bjerregaard birdied four of his first eight holes to surge clear.
In the end, he made eight birdies and two bogeys in his six-under 65, and showed no signs of nerves.
"I felt pretty confident," he said. "My girlfriend asked me this morning if I was nervous and I said, 'No, don't worry I've got this', probably more to calm her down than anything.
"I've been in this position a couple of times before so to finally come through and get my first win feels really good."
"Today is definitely up there with one of my best rounds, maybe not for the six-under but under the pressure, some of the shots I hit today were some of the best I've hit in a long time."
Scotland's Marc Warren had closed to within two of the leader with an eagle from 20 feet on the 17th and although he three-putted the last, his best result of the season lifted him from 173rd on the Race to Dubai to 100th.
Meanwhile, Michael Hoey and Gavin Moynihan slipped down the leaderboard in Almaty as Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen claimed his maiden European Challenge Tour title by overcoming Chase Koepka in a three-hole playoff for the Kazakhstan Open.
Hoey closed with a level-par 72 to fall seven spots to tied 22nd on eight-under-par while Moynihan had three double bogeys in a row from the 11th in a 75 to end up tied for 50th on two-under.
As a result, Hoey earned just €4,230 and rose just eight spots to 74th in the Road to Oman standings.
Moynihan fell one place to 28th and is €14,656 outside the top-15 who will be awarded European Tour cards at the end of the season.
As he plans to skip this week's Challenge de España, the Mount Wolseley touring professional has just four events to bridge the gap, or he must head to the Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School.
On the ladies tour, Spain's Azahara Munoz took full advantage of local knowledge to retain her title in the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de Espana Femenino at her home course.
The 29-year-old, who won her first tournament at Real Club de Golf Guadalmina aged nine, carded a closing 69 to finish 19-under par, two shots ahead of compatriot Carlota Ciganda and South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace.