Shinkwin claims maiden title at Cyprus Open

Callum Shinkwin defeated Kalle Samooja in a play-off to win his first European Tour at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open.

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Callum Shinkwin wins Cyprus Open

Callum Shinkwin defeated Kalle Samooja in a play-off to win his first European Tour title after a dramatic final day at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open.

The Englishman was two shots behind the Finn as he stood on the 17th tee in regulation and while a birdie there edged him closer, his chances of victory looked slim when he found rough off the tee at the par five last.

A mighty heave with his second shot over the water saw him find the putting surface and he holed an incredible 54 foot putt for eagle to take a one shot lead at 20 under after a closing 63.

Playing in the final group of the day, Samooja left himself an eagle chance from almost exactly the same spot and a two putt birdie handed him a closing 64 and took us to extra holes.

Shinkwin found the greenside bunker with his second shot at the first trip back up the last but got up and down for a birdie, with Samooja’s three putt from the fringe making Shinkwin a winner in his 112th European Tour event.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, South African Garrick Higgo and Scot Robert MacIntyre finished two shots out of the play-off, one clear of Australian Jason Scrivener, Finn Sami Välimäki and England’s Dale Whitnell.

After an excellent amateur career, Shinkwin graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2015 and looked to quickly have adjusted to life on the European Tour, comfortably keeping his playing privileges in his rookie campaign.

The following season saw him miss out in a play-off to Rafa Cabrera Bello at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open when a par on the 72nd hole would have handed him the title, and he went on to lose his card in 2018.

Five top tens in 2019 saw him regain his place on Tour and he now becomes the 11th first time winner on the 2020 Race to Dubai.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I have,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a shock but it feels great.

“I felt relaxed all day, I felt great, to be fair. 15 and 16 were playing me up all week. I was more nervous playing those two holes just to get through them than in the play-off or on the 18th. I managed to get through them really well and I felt great.

“I noticed at the start of the week they have cider here, which I love. They’ve got Somersby and Kopparberg so I think I’ll celebrate with a few of them tonight.

“Bit of a shock, commiserations to Kalle, he’s obviously played well this week as well, and I’m sure there are bigger things yet to come for him. It’s great, least expected it this week, coming out after what has gone on with Covid over the summer.

On his putt on the 72nd hole, he added: “The thing about holing that was there was no chance normally. It’s one in a million that you hole from that distance. My aim as to try and two putt and I holed it.”

Samooja made the most of the par five third and sixth before an eight foot right to lefter on the seventh had him in a share of the lead.

Shinkwin also took advantage of the two par fives on the back nine but both he and Samooja were trailing Välimäki, who made birdies on the third, fifth, sixth, ninth, tenth and 11th to lead by two.

Samooja was among the nearest challengers as he recovered from a poor tee shot with a two putt birdie from 98 feet on the tenth, and then made another gain on the 11th from eight feet.

Välimäki bogeyed the 13th and when Samooja holed from 18 feet on the same hole, he had the solo lead, but Shinkwin was stalking.

The 27-year-old made a two putt birdie on the tenth and holed from 12 feet on the 11th before he drove to the bunker in front of the green on the par four 14th and got up and down to put himself in position for his big finish.

MacIntyre had a birdie-birdie finish in a bogey free round of 65, a score matched by Higgo who finished with three birdies but had a single blemish on his card.

Donaldson made four birdies and did not drop a shot in a 67, the same score as Välimäki after the Oman Open champion bogeyed the 15th and 16th but made the most of the last.

Scrivener carded a 64, while Whitnell closed with a 65 to sit one shot ahead of Frenchman Adrien Saddier and two clear of Belgian Thomas Detry and Scot David Drysdale – who had held the lead early on day four.

European Tour Release, Nov 01, 2020