Andreas Hartø captured his second Challenge Tour title in thrilling fashion on only his fourth appearance at the Roma Golf Open 2010 presented by REZZA, with a dynamic display worthy of his predecessor as champion, Edoardo Molinari.
Twelve months ago at Olgiata Golf Club, on the outskirts of Rome, Molinari sunk a 30 foot putt on the 18th hole to take the title by one stroke, and rising star Hartø served up an equally dramatic finish with a birdie on the first extra hole of a sudden death play-off to edge out the rampaging Swede Joel Sjohölm, after both men had finished on 19 under par.
In so doing the 22 year old from Copenhagen, who only turned professional last month after winning the ECCO Tour Championship as an amateur, became the fastest player in history to capture two Challenge Tour titles.
Hartø, who had his Dad Kaspar on his bag and was followed round by Mum Jette and sister Cille, said: “Words just can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. It’s been a crazy week, and I’ve probably played the best golf of my whole life. I only made one bad drive all day on the 18th hole, when I was distracted by a falling leaf. But I kept calm and I couldn’t have played the play-off any better, so I was so relieved and also proud of how I coped. I’m probably going to cry in the presentation ceremony, especially if my Mum starts crying! It probably won’t hit me what I’ve achieved until a few weeks’ time, when I’ve put the clubs away and have some time to think about it.
“In less than two months, my life has changed completely forever. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d win two Challenge Tour titles in such a short space of time. It’s just ridiculous really. All credit to Joel for pushing me so hard today – two eagles in three holes was just great golf. I never thought I had the tournament won, because I had the feeling Joel was going to come up with something special. I’m just so happy I managed to hold it all together in the play-off. This whole experience is going to make me a better player, and a much more confident one. I just can’t wait to celebrate with my family now.”
Having started the day with a two-shot lead over Adrien Bernadet, Hartø saw his advantage swiftly disappear on the fifth hole, which he bogeyed and the Frenchman birdied. However, he hit back immediately with a birdie at the sixth hole, before chipping in for another birdie at the eighth and stretching his advantage further with a gain at the tenth hole.
The great Dane appeared to have the title in his grasp when he extended his lead to four shots at the 11th hole where, having found trouble off the tee, he improvised beautifully by punching a four iron through the trees to set up an unlikely par.
In contrast, Bernadet’s challenge faded as he dropped three shots after sending his drive out of bounds, whilst Sjohölm could only manage a bogey after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
But that was to reckon without the big-hitting Swede’s fearsome fighting spirit, which first manifested itself in superb style on the 15th, where he holed out from the sand for an eagle three. With Hartø also making birdie the gap was still three shots, but Sjohölm reduced the deficit to just one with another eagle to the Dane’s par at the 17th hole.
Having watched Sjohölm find the middle of the fairway with his drive down the 18th hole, Hartø – who was distracted by a leaf falling on top of his head at the moment of impact – pulled his drive well left, and could only chip back out onto the fairway.
After both men had found the heart of the green with their approaches and Sjohölm had left his birdie attempt short, Hartø was left with a par putt from 15 feet to take the title. Agonisingly, it too stopped inches short of the hole but, having returned to the 18th tee and followed up a pinpoint drive with a superb approach to four feet, he made no mistake second time around by finding the middle of the cup with his birdie putt to take the €24,000 first prize.
Sjohölm’s brilliant display moved the Swede, who now has six top five finishes to his name this season, up to eighth place in the Challenge Tour Rankings with earnings of €76,635, thereby guaranteeing a place on The European Tour next season.
The English duo of Matt Haines (67) and Andrew Marshall (69) finished in a tie for third place alongside Sweden’s Steven Jeppesen, who matched Haines’ round of 67 to join him on 14 under par.
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