A course record round of 62 – the lowest of his career – helped Austrian Bernd Wiesberger to his maiden Challenge Tour title at the ALLIANZ Golf Open de Lyon.
Wiesberger came into the week on the back of his highest Challenge Tour finish, a tie for second place at The Princess, and duly topped that with a 17 under par aggregate total at Golf du Gouverneur near Lyon, France, to take the title by two shots from the fast-finishing Joel Sjöholm of Sweden.
The win was the third by an Austrian on the Challenge Tour this season, following the victories of Martin Wiegele at the Kärnten Golf Open by Markus Brier Foundation and the SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC.
Wiesberger closed his third round with a three-putt bogey, but promptly banished that memory with gains at the first, third, fifth, sixth and eighth holes to go out in just 31. Another birdie at the 12th hole duly followed, before “the best two iron shots of my career” – a six iron to three feet for eagle on the 15th hole, and a seven iron to two feet for birdie at the next – effectively sealed the victory.
Wiesberger’s cheque for €24,000 moved him up 12 places to fourth in the Rankings, and put him within sight of a return to The European Tour at the first time of asking.
He said: “It’s just unreal – to shoot 62 on the last day to win the tournament is unbelievable. You don’t get many days where everything goes right, but today was definitely one of those days. I played well on the front nine for the first two days, then played well on the back nine on the third day. So I told myself that if I could combine the two today, I’d have a great chance of winning – and that’s how it worked out.
“The 15th and 16th holes were where I won the tournament – to hit those two shots at that time was pretty special. After that I knew that if I kept calm and played steady golf for the last two holes, the trophy would be mine. It helped that I was in the second last group last week, so I brought a lot of confidence and momentum with me this week. Now after the win, my confidence has gone up to another level again.
“I have to thank Branden Grace and his caddie, who did a great job for me today. For the first three days I didn’t have a caddy, and in this heat it’s hard enough to stay fresh and focused without having to carry your own clubs around as well. So it was really good to have Shane, and he helped me enormously on the greens. He asked for €70 before the start of the round, but I think I’ll tip him generously – he’ll be well looked after!
“I’m sure I’ll buy him a drink, then when I get back to Austria tonight, I’ll be hitting a few bars with my brother and friends to celebrate. Then I’ll rest up for a day and get ready for the Credit Suisse Challenge on Tuesday. It’s obviously hard to keep your energy and motivation levels up after a win, but if I want to get back on the main Tour again, I need to keep going. I don’t feel I did myself justice last year – my short game and putting just weren’t good enough. It’s always difficult to keep your card in your rookie season, but I’m confident that if I get back there, I’ll be much better prepared.”
Sjöholm, seeking his maiden Challenge Tour title, also went out in 31, but despite matching Wiesberger’s eagle at the 15th hole, the Swede was unable to maintain his momentum after the turn, and eventually had to settle for second place on 15 under par.
One shot back, his compatriot Fredrik Henge shot a round of 64 to finish in a three way tie for third place alongside England’s Adam Gee (66) and Denmark’s Thørbjorn Olesen (67).
Were it not for an opening round of 73, when he had to play with borrowed clubs after his set failed to make it to Lyon from Frankfurt, Henge might have been celebrating his sixth Challenge Tour title. But the 35 year old could at least console himself with a cheque for €9,000 which moved him up to 44th place in the Rankings.
The English duo of Paul Dwyer and Charlie Ford finished in a tie for sixth place on 13 under par after both men posted rounds of 67.
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