17 March, 2019: Guido Migliozzi showed nerves of steel down the back nine to claim his maiden European Tour title at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa. Gaganjeet Bhullar endured undulating fortunes on the final day as he mixed up seven birdies with two double bogeys (4 & 13) and a bogey (9th). Bhullar finished at -14 to -16 by Migliozzi.
The Qualifying School graduate was in uncharted territory at Karen Country Club, playing just his 14th European Tour event with no previous top tens to his name.
He has three wins on the Alps Tour, however, and the Italian drew on those experiences to card a 69 and get to 16 under, one shot clear of playing partner Adri Arnaus and South Africans Louis de Jager and Justin Harding.
Arnaus and Migliozzi put on a stunning show in the penultimate group on day three and they went head to head again on Sunday, with De Jager, Harding, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Kalle Samooja all also sharing the lead during the course of a thrilling final day.
But it was the 22-year-old who prevailed, getting his nose in front at the 12th and parring his last six holes under incredible pressure to take the title.
Bhullar finished at 14 under, a shot clear of Samooja and Frenchman Romain Langasque.
Migliozzi follows in the footsteps of Major Champions Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Trevor Immelman in winning this event on its debut on the European Tour, and becomes the second consecutive Italian winner after Lorenzo Gagli last season on the European Challenge Tour.
“I like this moment,” he said. “I like the pressure, it’s like a drug. I love pressure, I love playing with a lot of people looking at me and a lot of cameras.
“There was a lot of pressure on the course. After the birdie at the 12th I was leading but it was tough. I just kept patient towards the end, that was it.
“I enjoyed the last two days very much. The pressure was a lot and I’m happy about how I’m playing under pressure, also with my putting game that I worked a lot on.”
Arnaus bogeyed the second and when he got a terrible slice of luck after hitting the flag with his second on the third and seeing his ball go off the green, he made another bogey to put fellow overnight leader Migliozzi two ahead.
The leader failed to get up and down from over the back of the fourth and a stunning Arnaus approach to the fifth put him into a four way tie for the lead.
De Jager took advantage of the par five sixth – adding to an earlier bogey on the second and brilliant birdie from the trees on the fifth – to hit the front on his own but Arnaus and Migliozzi both did the same.
It was then Migliozzi’s turn to have some bad luck on the ninth, with his ball nestling up against a tree trunk, but he played the ball against the tree and gave himself a chance of an up and down
He could not make his five foot par putt and there was a four way tie for the lead, with Finn Samooja also at 14 under after birdies on the second, sixth and ninth and a bogey on the fourth.
A ten foot putt on the tenth put Migliozzi back ahead but De Jager and Arnaus both capitalised on the par five 11th to make it a share once again.
Migliozzi then found the fringe with his second on the par five next, getting down in two for the crucial birdie.
Arnaus bogeyed the 12th but birdied the 15th to keep it alive down the last, with Migliozzi hitting the flag with his second on the 18th to leave two putts for victory.
Last week’s winner Harding started with eight pars but got up and down from the front of the ninth and the back of the 11th for birdies.
An eagle from ten feet at the 12th had him in a share of the lead but he bogeyed the next before a stunning approach into the 15th and a 20 footer on the 17th guaranteed him another good week.
Birdies on the second and third had India’s Bhullar in a share of the lead and despite a double bogey on the fourth, he was briefly there again after a birdie on the sixth.
He then sandwiched birdies on the tenth and 12th with a bogey on the ninth and a double on the 13th, before chipping in for birdie on the 15th and 17th.
Samooja birdied the 12th but bogeyed the 15th and last on the back nine, while Langasque carded a 65.
Scot Liam Johnston was ten under, a shot clear of South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, New Zealander Josh Geary and Swede Anton Karlsson.