Scotland's David Drysdale produced the shot of his life to complete an absolutely astonishing comeback and win a sudden-death play-off with Sweden's Mattias Eliasson at the Bouygues Telecom Grand Final - taking the €34,250 first prize he required to win his place on The 2005 European Tour via the Challenge Tour Rankings.
On a day of intense drama at the Golf du Médoc in Bordeaux, England’s Lee Slattery won the Challenge Tour Rankings while Drysdsale and Eliasson both jumped into the top 15 after a day of unbelievable highs and lows that only live sporting events can produce.
Players, caddies, officials and spectators scurried to and from the main tournament scoreboard, calculating who was going to finish where on the Rankings as news from each hole filtered through to the leaderboard.
At one point, it looked like England’s Sam Walker would run away with the title and secure his Card, but minutes later it was Eliasson and his fellow-countryman Oskar Bergman who were safe in the Challenge Tour’s elite.
Oliver Wilson who started the week in 13th place on the Rankings carded an outstanding final round 67 to finish on seven under par, but could hardly bear the tension as he waited to see if his final effort was good enough to secure his place on Tour in this his Rookie year as a professional.
Drysdale started the final round in a tie for the lead, knowing that only a victory would secure his place in the top 15 of the Rankings. He got off to a terrible start in the last match of the day, losing a ball at the third hole and being forced to take a double bogey six.
The 29 year old went to the turn in three over par 38, and trailed Eliasson by five shots at one point, before producing four birdies on the back nine – and an outstanding two putt par on the 72nd hole from over 80 feet – to come home in four under 32 to force the play-off.
And so the Scotsman’s place on The 2005 European Tour came down to a single hole shoot-out, with Drysdale taking his game to another level to achieve his goal – nailing his drive down the middle before producing a sublime three-iron approach from 202 yards that stopped just three feet from the hole.
Eliasson had found trouble off the tee, but forced Drysdale to make the birdie with a brilliant up and down from 120 yards for par. By this stage though, the Scot was never going to miss, and he rolled in the winning putt to complete an unbelievable day’s golf in the south west of France.
“I can’t believe it,” said a truly emotional Drysdale moments after sinking the winning putt. “After nine holes I had thrown the tournament away, but I hit some great shots to get back into it on the back nine and then the three-iron in the play-off was the shot of my life.
“I really am stuck for words at the moment to be honest, my emotions are up and down and all over the place. It’s just amazing, unbelievable. I know that I am looking forward to getting back to European Tour, that’s for sure. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be having a couple of celebratory drinks tonight when I get back to Dunbar!”
Drysdale’s magnificent finish moved him from 44th on the Rankings to 12th spot with earnings of €59,856 – one place behind Eliasson who began the week needing a top two finish to make the top 15.
Eliasson, playing in the second last match of the day had charged out of the blocks with three birdies in his first three holes to get to 13 under, while Walker – in the last group – picked up two shots in his opening two holes to get one ahead of the Swede. The Englishman’s quick-fire start came grinding to a halt, though, with a bogey on the fourth and a double bogey at the sixth.
Bergman, playing alongside Walker and overnight co-leader Drysdale, birdied the second, third and fifth to move to 13 under after nine holes with Eliasson picking up another shot on the seventh to move to 14 under with a front nine of 31.
Wilson, meanwhile, was going about consolidating his place in the top 15 with the kind of display that made him an invaluable member of the victorious Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup winning side in 2003. The 22 year old turned in one under 34 before a magnificent eagle three at the tenth to get to six under.
Elsewhere, the battle for Number One on the Rankings and the title of Challenge Tour Champion 2004 swung in favour of Slattery, who put together four birdies, a double bogey and four pars to turn in one under 34 to move to eight under, while Italy's Alessandro Tadini - Number One at the start of the week - remained on five under through the front nine.
As the field moved on to the last nine holes of the 2004 Challenge Tour season, Slattery surged into the Number One Spot on the Rankings by coming home in 34. His final round 68 was indicative of his fairytale season on the Challenge Tour, and he now must surely be considered one of the hottest talents in the game after winning the Rankings in just 13 events. Tadini posted a final round 72 to finish in second place overall.
With the race for the Number One spot taken care of, it was back to the Rankings roller coaster, with Wilson coming home in 33 to post a final round 67 for a seven under par 277 aggregate and finally getting confirmsation that he had secured the 15th and final Card.
But the day belonged to two players – Drysdale for his astounding bravery at one of the most nerve-wracking golf tournaments on any circuit, and Slattery for his outsanding brilliance over the course of the last three months.