Rhys Davies proved that form is temporary but class is permanent as the Welshman marched to a first title in five years courtesy of a four-shot victory at the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
A two under par 70 in difficult afternoon conditions at the pristine Gloria Golf Resort in Belek was enough to secure his first win since overcoming Louis Oozthuizen in an epic duel at the 2010 Trophée Hassan on The European Tour.
The 29 year old started nervously, driving into the trees from the first tee but saving par, and then bogeying the par three second, but he steadied the ship thereafter.
Four more birdies and just one more dropped shot meant he carded a two under par 70, elevating him to a 14 under total and bringing him a third career European Challenge Tour title.
“It’s a bit of a surprise to be honest”, said Davies, a two-time former Walker Cup player who beat Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in the singles of the 2007 edition.
“I knew it would be tough today, I never doubted that. I was really nervous to start with but again, I expected that. I hit a few dodgy shots, but I holed a freakishly long putt on the second and even though it was for a bogey, that got me going.
“After that I settled fairly well. I wasn’t playing that well but I was scrambling really well and my golfing brain was in gear – hitting it in all the right places and not putting myself under too much pressure.
“If I’m brutally honest, I probably had a few good breaks this week. I hit a few strange shots at times that I got away with but I hit some fantastic ones too, my wedge and putter were excellent, especially at the weekend.
“The two guys I was playing with didn’t get off to a great start either so in that respect, I didn’t feel a huge amount of pressure. I just thought today, if I can shoot three under and get to 15 I’d be tough to catch, so that was my goal. I was one short and I came close to holing my chip on the last so I almost got there.”
“Sometimes it’s been really horrible in the last couple of years, I’m not going to pretend. It’s been quite dark sometimes."
It has been a difficult couple of years for the Bridgend player having reached the heady heights of 44th in the Official World Golf Ranking and finished 18th in The Race to Dubai in 2010.
But he never lost the faith in his own ability and knew that, when the opportunity of another victory presented itself, he would click into winning mode and the confidence and determination would all come flooding back.
“Sometimes it’s been really horrible in the last couple of years, I’m not going to pretend,” he said. “It’s been quite dark sometimes. But I always felt that if I could get in the mix I could win again, I didn’t doubt that to be honest.
“But I couldn’t see it happening any time soon at various moments. Sometimes it was so bad I didn’t know where the next good round was going to come from. That’s all I’ve been looking for, one good score. I know that seems crazy but it was as simple as that.
“It does feel like a long time since I’ve won, but it’s strange that when you get in the mix, everything floods back to you. I’ve been very fortunate that a number of people have been very supportive of me, during my tough times.
“Phillip Price is one in particular. He’s been exceptionally supportive and he always said to me that if I got in the mix then all the feelings would come back, so I drew on that a bit today and in a strange way it felt like I been playing in contention regularly for the last few years. Certainly, towards the end it felt normal which I’m pleased about and I really like playing in those situations.”
"Hopefully I can draw on this as a real positive and use it to my advantage in the coming weeks and months.”
Everything changes now for Davies as he moves to second in the Road to Oman Rankings, and he hopes he can push on this season and make a return to where he belongs - the highest echelons of world golf.
“It’s great to win at the start of the season,” he said. “It takes a little bit of the pressure off in some respects but I’m here to try to win again now. I’ll let this sink in over the next few days and I’ll be ready to go next week in Denmark.
“But it’s a tough slog on the Challenge Tour. It’s a long season and there are a lot of good players. You travel a lot to different types of golf courses so I know there will be tough times ahead still, but hopefully I can draw on this as a real positive and use it to my advantage in the coming weeks and months.”
Lorenzo Gagli emerged from the pack on the final day with a four under par 68 to climb ten places and finish runner-up on ten under par, while Englishmen Phillip Archer (69), Callum Shinkwin (70) and William Harrold (72) shared third place with Swede Björn Åkesson (71) and Sihwan Kim (71) of the USA, on nine under.