German sensation Moritz Lampert earned instant promotion to The European Tour after securing his third Challenge Tour title of the season with a superb display in the Azerbaijan Golf Challenge Open.
Lampert started the final day in Quba five shots behind the overnight leader Benjamin Hebert, but blitzed through the field with a closing round of 66 to win by two strokes from Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera.
Remarkably, Lampert was three over par for his fist nine holes on the opening day at The National Azerbaijan Golf Club, but made an incredible 16 birdies and four eagles over his next 63 holes to finish the week on 16 under par.
The victory was Lampert’s third in the space of ten weeks, following wins in Austria and Spain, and confirmed the 22 year old’s status as one of the hottest young prospects in the game.
His winner’s cheque for €48,000 saw Lampert leapfrog England’s Andrew Johnston at the top of the Rankings, but it is in all probability the last tournament he will play on the Challenge Tour this term, with his next taste of competitive action likely to come at the inaugural Made in Denmark event on The European Tour in two weeks’ time.
Lampert, who is attached to European Tour Destination St Leon-Rot, said: “It all feels a bit surreal at the moment. Everything’s happened so fast, so it’s a little bit difficult to take it in. My first win in Austria seems like only last week, and since then I’ve just been riding a wave.
“This win has definitely been the most unexpected. After nine holes on Thursday I would’ve been surprised to make the cut, let alone win the tournament. But I found something on my back nine, and after that my rhythm and confidence came back.
“This morning I thought I had a small chance of winning if I got off to a fast start, and I was three under through seven holes. Then when I birdied the 11th for the first time this week, I thought maybe it might be my day.
“I then bogeyed the 13th after a horrible shot, but after that I really went for it and luckily it went my way. I’m so happy and I can’t wait to get onto The European Tour; but before that I’m going to enjoy a holiday in Rome with my girlfriend. I guess after today I’ll be paying!”
For much of the day it had appeared as though Lorenzo-Vera would end his seven year title drought, the Frenchman capitalising on his compatriot Hebert’s stuttering start to charge into the lead after reaching the turn in 33.
But he was unable to maintain his momentum on the back nine, bogeying the 14th hole to drop back to 13 under par and, despite a birdie two holes later, he had to settle for second best and a cheque for €33,000 which moved him from 39th to sixth in the Rankings.
Lorenzo-Vera said: “I played well today and did everything I could, but came up against the hottest player on the Challenge Tour. I tried to push him all the way, but in the end he was just too good.
“I created lots of birdie chances and on another day I may have taken them, but my putter went a bit cold, especially on the back nine. I really regret the 14th and 15th, because I made a stupid bogey on 14 and then hit my drive into the water on 15. I still made a par but you should be looking to make birdie on that hole, so that’s probably where I lost it.
“But it’s been a long time since I finished second, so I can’t complain too much. And the prize fund here was so big, my earnings are as much as a win in most other tournaments. So I’ve made a big jump up the Rankings, and now I just need to keep it going for the rest of the season.”
Johnston’s rich vein of form continued with a closing round of 68 for a 13 under par aggregate total and a share of third place alongside his fellow Englishman Steven Brown, whose closing bogey was the only blemish of an otherwise superb 66.
Hebert’s round unravelled with five bogeys in his first ten holes, and he ultimately slumped to a 76 for an 11 under par aggregate total.