Mikael Lundberg survived the brutally tough conditions that blighted the final round to win the Toscana Open Italian Federation Cup and secure a return to The European Tour.
The Swede carded a hugely respectable final round of two over par 73 in biting cold and stormy winds to take the €22,400 first prize by five strokes from Ireland’s Stephen Browne and elevate himself to eighth place on the Challenge Tour Rankings with just one event remaining on the 2007 Schedule.
Lundberg can now head to next week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final safe in the knowledge that he will once again be a European Tour player next season.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have won here and got the card for next year taken care of,” smiled Lundberg.
“Every time you win it is a special feeling, but this has something extra attached to it. I think when you have a goal that is going to take a year to achieve and you achieve it then it is a special feeling. To have won the second last event of the season to achieve my goal is pretty special.”
After three days of near perfect conditions, illustrated perfectly by the low scoring of the first three rounds, the final day at Le Pavoniere Golf Club saw temperatures plummet due to freezing winds that gusted through the field and even brought a suspension of play midway through the day due to storm activity in and around the Tuscany region.
Those extreme conditions completely changed the nature of the final round, with the chasing pack quickly changing their strategies from catching Lundberg with a birdie blitz to merely surviving the day.
“The conditions were so tough today,” continued Lundberg, who had opened up a seven stroke lead after 54 holes thanks to his course record nine under par 62 in the third round.
“You could say that the conditions helped me because it meant that not many guys were going to be making a lot of birdies and making a charge, but I had to play in the same conditions and the danger of everyone was the fact that you could easily make double and triple bogeys today.”
As Lundberg lifted the Toscana Open Italian Federation Cup, Browne was celebrating the required second place finish that kept his hopes of winning back his own European Tour card via the Rankings.
The Dubliner needed to finish at least second on his own to win a place at next week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, where and elite 45-man field contest a prize fund of €250,000 as the battle for the 20 available European Tour cards reaches its annual nail-biting conclusion.
He did that in dramatic style during a final round that was hugely affected by the wintry conditions, posting a three under par 68 that included a birdie-birdie finish to post an 11 under par 273 aggregate to post the clubhouse lead with just two matches left on the golf course.
Of the six men still to finish, two were ahead of Browne as they played the last hole – Lundberg and Finland’s Toni Karjalainen.
It was Karjalainen who would put the seal on Browne’s fantastic day as he ran up a triple bogey at the 18th hole to leave Browne in second place on his own, which won the Irishman €15,400 and allowed him to climb 34 places on the Rankings, from 71st to 37th, thereby securing his place at the last event of the season.
“This is unbelievable,” said Browne as the news was broken to him. “Obviously Toni has let me in with his triple bogey at the last but I did I couldn’t have done anymore and made some huge putts coming down the stretch.
“In fact I made crucial putts on the last five greens so I feel like I deserve to finish second and get to the Grand Final.”
Joining Browne in breaking into the top 45 was Sweden’s Klas Ericsson, who climbed from 46th to 44th to seal his place at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.