Englishman Jamie Moul claimed his first Challenge Tour title at the Acaya Open in Italy with a stunning five under par 65 in the final round.
The 26 year old had a string of birdies on the back nine to shift the momentum in his direction and despite bogeying the 18th he ultimately finished one shot clear of Spaniard Jorge Campillo, the overnight leader who had a two under par 68, and Branden Grace, who equalled the course record with a sparkling 64.
Campillo led for most of the day but a double bogey at the par five 16th proved costly. He needed to hole a 15-foot putt for birdie at the last to force a play-off, but he missed, handing Moul the €25,600 winner’s cheque.
Moul started the final round two shots off the pace, but had an eagle at the par five first to crank up the pressure on Campillo. He reached the turn in two under par, and picked up further shots at the tenth, 14th, 15 and 16th.
“I’m over the moon,” he said. “It was a crazy day. I hit it much better today after a bit of work on the range after yesterday’s round, and I putted out of my boots. It’s the kind of thing you’ve got to do to win.
“The eagle on the first helped settle the nerves. I hit my second shot to about four feet so it was a nice way to start. I dropped shots at the next two par threes though so I was disappointed to give those shots back early on.
“I made some good putts on the back nine – the three consecutive birdies were all good putts. I wasn’t trying to see what was going on elsewhere. I just wanted to take care of what I was doing and thankfully I was able to finish it off.
“On the 18th I had a nasty bunker shot for my third shot which came out a little harder than I wanted and just rolled off the back of the green. But I’ve been chipping well all day so I was confident I would get it up and down from there.
“This now means I can schedule the back half of the season. I was category 11 so I wasn’t getting into many events. I wasn’t in for next week (the Credit Suisse Challenge). I was getting calls on Mondays and Tuesdays to go to events, but now I can plan it, so it makes a massive difference.
“I can also reassess my goals now – obviously the Rankings is in my head now and a place in the top ten come the end of the season is certainly a goal now.”
Campillo was distraught to have thrown away his chance for victory with a stray tee shot into heavy rough on the 16th, which should have been a great opportunity for birdie.
“It’s so disappointing,” he said. “I hardly missed any shots all day but on the 16th I pushed my drive right and couldn’t get out of the thick rough. It’s frustrating but I played well today so I can’t be too down.
“I knew I needed to make that putt on the 18th but I overhit it a little. I wasn’t nervous, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t leave it short. It’s one of those things.”
Grace holed a 20-footer for birdie at the last for a share of second, equalling his best Challenge Tour performance.
“I had some great par saves on the back nine and that nice putt at the end was a perfect way to finish,” he said. “I knew at the 15th that there were some good birdie chances coming up, and I was disappointed not to birdie the 16th, but that’s golf.
“It’s my best finish of the season and shows I’m heading in the right direction. This will also push me up the Rankings a fair bit so that’s great too.”
Englishman Dale Whitnell, a Walker Cup player in 2009, set the new course record 64 earlier in the day and Grace was equal to his efforts in the afternoon.