Friday 25 May 2018

Wattel ends wait for glory as Dunne gets going too late

Romain Wattel celebrates with the trophy after winning the KLM Open at The
Dutch. Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Romain Wattel celebrates with the trophy after winning the KLM Open at The Dutch. Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Romain Wattel finally tasted victory on the European Tour at the 187th time of asking, as the Frenchman held off the challenge of Kiradech Aphibarnrat at the KLM Open, with Paul Dunne carding a final round 66 to finish tied 14th.

The Greystones man maintained form from Saturday's round, during which he recorded an impressive six-under 65, by registering six birdies in yesterday's final round - upset only by a bogey at the second.

Dunne maintained form from Saturday’s round. Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images
Dunne maintained form from Saturday’s round. Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

The other Irish competitor, Pádraig Harrington, hit a final round 69 to leave him three-under overall and well out of contention.

Wattel, who had not recorded a top-20 finish all season prior to ending his title drought at The Dutch, was level with Thailand's Aphibarnrat for much of the back nine, but saw his challenger find water twice in the last four holes, with both leading to double-bogeys.

That meant a par at the last was enough for the 26-year-old to secure victory with a 15-under total, following a closing round of 69.

Wattel won by one from fast-finishing Canadian Austin Connelly, who shot six birdies en route to signing for a 66, with former world No 1 Lee Westwood part of a six-way tie for third at 13-under.

"I came to this tournament, I was playing poorly to be honest," Wattel said.

"Last week I struggled with my game. I am happy with the way I played all week. It's been a very nice weekend.

"I've been putting really bad the last two years -I think I'm a really good putter, but the last two years were tough for me."

Wattel had recorded 25 top-10 finishes in his previous 186 events without tasting victory, and surpassed overnight leader Aphibarnrat with three birdies in his first six holes.

A dropped shot on the eighth was recovered on the 10th and, although Wattel bogeyed the next, he remained in the hunt by parring his way in as others fell away.

Aphibarnrat brifly led when he birdied the 14th, but he found water at the next and double-bogeyed before suffering the same fate at the last as he attempted to put pressure on Wattel by reaching the green at the par five in two.

Westwood never threatened to end his three-year European Tour title drought during the last round, although he did birdie the last to sign for a 69 and finish alongside compatriot Eddie Pepperell, France's Joel Stalter, German Sebastian Heisele and South Africans George Coetzee and Justin Walters.

Meanwhile, at the BMW Championship, Rory McIlroy carded a level-par 71 in the final round after an uneventful tournament for the Holywood star in Illinois. McIlroy, who started on the 10th, cancelled out three back-nine bogeys with three birdies to finish two-under for the tournament, in a tie for 58th place.

Runaway leader Marc Leishman finished five strokes clear of Justin Rose after a final round 67 left him 23-under par.

At the Albertsons Boise Open on the Web.com tour, Waterford's Seamus Power carded a final round one-over 72 to finish seven-under par.

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