Phillip Archer claimed the third Challenge Tour title of his career after he held his nerve and holed a tricky four-foot putt to win the inaugural Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic with a two under par round of 70.
The Englishman was two shots clear at one point during an enthralling final day at Country Club de Barranquilla in Colombia but superb performances down the stretch from young guns Chris Lloyd and Morten Orum Madsen meant Archer had to birdie a final hole on which he had failed to gain a shot all week to avoid a play-off.
When Archer drove into the rough to the left on the par five 18th, the 39 year old knew he would have to do it the hard way, but his second shot nestled just shy of the green before a solid up and down sealed what he claimed was his “best win yet”.
“I was thinking when I stood over the putt that the hole owed me something because I had two fives and a six there before that,” explained Archer. “I had pulled my drive into a similar position where I was the last three days. I caught a half-decent lie this time though and had a full swing so I was able to get something on it and managed to nudge it to the front edge.
“I was quite comfortable standing over the final putt though. I went through my full routine which I had done all the way around and luckily I holed it.”
Having started the day one shot off the lead held by Nick Dougherty, Archer kept it steady on the front nine with a sublime approach to the second green earning him a simple tap-in for birdie.
He exchanged a birdie and bogey at the seventh and eighth holes to reach the turn in one under and, with Dougherty having dropped back after an opening double-bogey and their playing partner Tyrrell Hatton struggling to a five over par front nine, Archer darted into the lead with a birdie on the 11th.
He dropped a shot on the 13th, however, while Lloyd and Madsen both picked up two birdies each in the final four holes to go into the clubhouse on seven under and pile the pressure on Archer.
But the Warrington man made his experience count and was delighted with the win, which moved him to the top of the Challenge Tour rankings on €33,946.
“Wins are always good,” he said. “It just shows you’ve concentrated for the whole way around and I just eked ahead of everyone. I knew a birdie would win it on the final hole and I had never actually holed a putt to win a title. I've never had that feeling so that was a really nice feeling and one that I’d like to have a few more times.”
Lloyd, meanwhile, was disappointed not to have been able to take it to a play-off after a superb five under par final round of 67, which included no less than seven birdies and earned him tied second spot with Madsen.
But the ambitious 20 year old admitted that it will only make him keener to claim that maiden Challenge Tour victory.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that it didn’t go to a play-off,” said the Bristol man. “But I was nine under for the weekend so I've got to be pleased with that, you can’t be too picky really. I played great all day to be honest.
I made some big putts to start with and then I holed another great one on the 16th and a nice birdie at the last.
“I’m still craving that first win. I've had two good finishes now, eighth in India and second this week so hopefully I can carry that on in Kenya in a few weeks’ time. I finished second in my fourth event in Italy last year too so hopefully I can finally get that win this season.”
Madsen, meanwhile, was thrilled with the first tournament of his debut season on the Challenge Tour and leaves Colombia having claimed the course record with a six under par 66 on the third day at the windswept venue on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, before carding a two under par final round of 70.
“I found my game this weekend and it was just fun,” said the 23 year old Dane. “I played really well again today, I just made a couple of silly mistakes and made some bogeys but I still made plenty of birdies so I just wanted to make as many as I could towards the end and have a go at it.
“I thought if I made eagle on the final hole I had a chance but full credit to Phillip Archer - that was a great up and down on the last hole so you can’t do anything about that.
“This was my first tournament as a full Challenge Tour member and it was really exciting to come here and play well because you never know what to expect so I’m really, really happy. It was a nice perk to get the course record too, so I’m really excited for this season now.”
Dougherty, meanwhile, had to settle for tied fourth place on his Challenge Tour debut with a one over par round of 73 but the three-time European Tour winner was happy with his lot. He now plans to play the next tournament on the schedule, The Barclays Kenya Open, to build on a week in which he appears to have slayed the demons which led to him making just one cut in 34 tournaments on The European Tour last year.He was joined on six under par by compatriots, 2010 Apulia San Domenico Grand Final winner Matt Haines, and Challenge Tour rookie Chris Hanson, after they both carded for rounds of 71.
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