Spain's Alvaro Salto won the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open in Ascona by the narrowest of margins after a blow-by-blow contest with Michele Reale from Italy. The 26-year-old from Madrid carded a closing 67 for a 16-under-par tally of 268, one ahead of Reale, who shot 69, and two clear of Marten Olander of Sweden and Welshman Stephen Dodd.
Dodd, the 33-year-old from Barry, was aiming to secure his first Challenge Tour victory in eight years and had every chance as he went into the final round two strokes clear.
But despite shooting well under par in his previous three rounds, he failed to find a single birdie and eventually came home in 72. "I takes some doing not to score a birdie around this course," he said. "But I haven't played that well this week and I didn't today."
In contrast, Reale, Dodd's playing partner, reeled off three birdies in his first five holes to go ahead and he stayed in front until he got a little tentative on the greens and three-putted the 396-yard 16th for bogey.
Minutes earlier Salto had birdied the 15th to go 16 under, a target Reale was unable to match. The 26-year-old Italian had the chance to force a playoff if he could hole a 12-foot birdie putt at the last. But his curling effort lipped out.
Salto was another who felt he hadn't played well. "I was not happy with my driving and I only used my driver twice today," he said. "Both times it cost me a bogey but I played with a strong head while I holed a lot of long putts.
"It's been a very nervous week for me but it came out well in the end."
It was Salto's second Challenge Tour success, following his victory in the Eulen Open Galea in Bilbao two years ago. But it was his second victory of 2000 as he won the opening event of the Oki Tour in Spain in January, beating all the leading Spaniards apart from Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia.
Andrew Butterfield, from Bromley in Kent, took fifth spot on 271 after a 68, which included a back, nine of 29. "I've never carded 29 for nine holes before but this week has been the best I've played all year," he said.
It was a good day for the Spanish. Apart from Salto, Luis Claverie also went round in 65 for 272 and joint sixth, to be joined by Jesus Maria Arruti, who had 67, and Tim Spence, from Sussex with 66.
On a day of low scoring in perfect conditions, another 65 was returned by Raimo Sjoberg from Sweden, who took ninth place while Swiss hopes were in the hands of Dimitri Bieri and the 27-year-old from Neuchatel joined a large group in 10th place on 274 after a 72, his first top-10 place for three years.
The Patriziale course record of 62 was under threat from Stuart Little as the Gloucestershire-based man covered his first 12 holes in eight under with two eagles and four birdies. But three late bogeys brought him home in 66 for 276.