European Tour Release, 26 August 2019: Erik van Rooyen birdied the last to overcome Matthew Fitzpatrick in a thrilling final day battle and win his first European Tour title at the Scandinavian Invitation.
The South African was last season’s European Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year and arrived at Hills Golf & Sports Club having finished second three times on the European Tour – twice on the 2019 Race to Dubai.
He entered the final day in Gothenburg with a one-shot lead and was caught by Fitzpatrick and local hero Henrik Stenson but led by two at the turn and stretched that lead to three on the back nine.
Gaganjeet Bhullar had a solid final round 66, but despite a persistent effort this week had to be content with a T53 at 5-under 275.
Fitzpatrick – the 2016 champion – was tenacious in producing a birdie-birdie finish in a 64 and when Van Rooyen bogeyed the 17th, the players were tied at 18 under.
But the 29-year-old made a gutsy closing birdie from 15 feet on the par five last to match Fitzpatrick’s 64 and get to 19 under.
Stenson thrilled the home fans with a hole-in-one at the sixth in a closing 66 that moved him to 14 under alongside South African Dean Burmester – who carded the same score.
Van Rooyen’s victory is the 150th in European Tour history by a South African and moves him inside the top ten on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex.
“It’s too good, it’s hard to describe,” he said.
“I was so nervous on 18. On 17 I was fine, I just didn’t hit that putt hard enough and then I asked (caddie) Alex, ‘what are we at?’ and he told me that Matt went birdie-birdie.
“I’ve been putting so well all day and to hole that one to win my first one is pretty cool.
“I’ve gone close a bunch of times and every time I’m in contention the question gets asked. I’m just so proud of myself and Alex and everybody, I’m over the moon.”
Stenson took advantage of the par five third and then produced maybe the highlight of the week with his one bounce ace at the sixth sending the crowd wild and moving him into a share of the lead.
His seven iron from 185 yards was the 24th hole-in-one of the season and second of the week after Adam Bland at the tenth on Thursday.
Fitzpatrick made the most of the third from six feet to make it a three way tie and from there on it developed into a fascinating two horse race.
Van Rooyen also claimed his birdie, getting up and down with a 15 footer to hold the lead on his own again, but a stunning approach to two feet at the fourth from Fitzpatrick made it a tie once more
Van Rooyen holed a monster putt from the fringe on the fifth to edge himself back ahead and hit the eighth green in two to make another birdie.
An excellent approach from Fitzpatrick set up a birdie of his own at the ninth but Van Rooyen was not in the mood to be caught and he put his own approach to eight feet to re-establish his cushion.
The lead was three after another long putt from Van Rooyen at the tenth but Fitzpatrick birdied the 11th and holed a long putt at the 13th before the leader also made the most of the par three.
A piece of rotten luck saw a beautiful second from Fitzpatrick at the 14th hit the pin and roll off the green for a bogey before he birdied the next, dropped another shot on the 16th, and then holed a monster on the 17th before finding the green at the par five last in two.
Van Rooyen three putted the 17th to leave it tied at the top but he got up and down from just short of the last, holing that clutch putt to enter the winner’s circle.
“I didn’t put a foot wrong, I didn’t really miss a shot,” said Fitzpatrick, who has now been a runner up three times this season. “I hate to say it but I had no luck out there.
“I’m really comfortable with where my game is at, another second place so hopefully we’ll have one better later this year.”
Stenson picked up another shot on the eighth but came home in level par, while Burmester turned in 36 before making four birdies on the back nine.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, American Sihwan Kim, France’s Alexander Levy, Australian Wade Ormsby and home favourite Sebastian Soderberg were 13 under.