Sweden’s Oscar Floren captured his maiden Challenge Tour title on a dramatic and demanding final day at the SWALEC Wales Challenge.
After 36 energy-sapping holes Floren, who began the day with a four shot advantage, signed off with a round of 75 to finish on eight under par, just one shot clear of the fast-finishing Raymond Russell of Scotland.
But the bare figures alone only tell half the story. Having compiled a third round of 71 in the morning, half an hour later Floren embarked on his fourth and final round with a one shot lead over his compatriot Joel Sjöholm.
That slender advantage disappeared in the blink of an eye, as he promptly double bogeyed the first hole and then suffered the same fate at the fourth. Some nerve-settling pars steadied the ship, but a bogey at the 14th hole – allied to five successive birdies on the back nine for Russell – appeared to have put pay to his chances.
But Floren drew on all his reserves of energy and strength to birdie the tough 17th hole, and after Russell had closed with a bogey having found the trees to the left of the green, the Swede stood on the 18th tee needing a birdie to take the title.
A fearless drive and a pinpoint approach set up a 12 foot birdie chance, and he duly found the middle of the cup to collect the €24,000 winner’s cheque, which saw him depose England’s Robert Dinwiddie at the top of the Rankings.
Floren – who also collected the first prize after finishing runner-up at last week’s ECCO Tour Championship, which was won by an amateur – can now prepare for a debut campaign on The European Tour.
The tired but triumphant Swede said: “I certainly did it the hard way, but I’m so relieved, and a little emotional. I couldn’t have got off to a worse start on the first, where I hit a terrible approach shot. I thought I was out of the tournament at that point, but everyone else was struggling so I knew I just had to hang in there. I played solid golf on the back nine, and then down the stretch I played some of the best golf of my career, because I was under pressure. I hit a great five wood on 16, got a bit of a lucky break on 17 but then made a great birdie on the last. My legs were tired towards the end but my mind wasn’t, which is the most important thing. So I’m really proud of myself.
“This secures my card for next season, and the Number One spot has to be my goal now – it was about time someone took Dinwiddie down! I’ve got a week off now, so I might have to have a few drinks to celebrate, then get ready for Kazakhstan. It’s been a great season, and I have my coaches to thank for that but mostly it’s been down to a change in my attitude. I’m much more focused now on and off the course, and it’s paid off. I can’t wait for next season now.”
Sjöholm’s closing round of 77 saw the Swede drop back to a share of third place on five under par alongside Chile’s Mark Tullo, who signed off with a round of 71.