Julian Suri closed out a memorable victory at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge to record the first European Challenge Tour win of his career and regain the top spot in the Road to Oman Rankings.
The American carried a three-shot lead into the final round at Golf & Spa Kunětická Hora but faltered early as playing partner Tapio Pulkkanen opened with two birdies before another one on the ninth meant the pair were level at the turn.
However, the Floridian rediscovered the form of the first three days, reeling off four birdies from the 11th hole to pull clear again – though a Pulkkanen birdie on 16 closed the gap to just one shot with two to play.
The Finn then missed a short birdie putt on 17 that would have tied the lead before pulling his drive down the last, and his closing bogey ultimately meant that a delighted Suri sealed a two-shot win on 23 under par overall for the biggest win of his career.
“It feels great,” said the 26 year old. “The whole day definitely wasn’t quite the way I dreamed it up over the last three days but I kept plugging away and my caddie Pete was big with that.
“I got some bad breaks on the front nine, some bad bounces and tough lies, and it’s hard to come into these greens from the rough, so I had to keep trusting my game and once I birdied 11, that was big for me.
“All I needed was to see one putt go in and I was then able to birdie the next three in a row and it was off to the races – it was match play from thereon in and it was really fun, Tapio played great and fortunately I was able to come out on top this time.
“It felt like the last three days had felt once that birdie dropped on 11. I holed a decent putt on the next and I was almost thinking, ‘let’s try to birdie out’ – obviously eight in a row would have been pushing it, but I had that vibe, that mojo, and that’s the way I play my best.
“I’d have liked to have made a couple more, made it a little easier coming in, but it was a good battle and that’s what we practise and train so hard for, to be able to trust yourself when it matters the most coming down the stretch.
“This was my goal for the week, it’s my goal every week, so my goal will be to win in Switzerland next week, and more than anything this is huge for my confidence, knowing my game can hold up when it matters the most.
“This is the biggest win of my career for sure – I won a flop shot contest on the Challenge Tour in France last summer and got a little trophy for that but this one probably means a little bit more!
“Closing it out today was a great experience and hopefully something I can draw on in the future – I’m not going to lie, it feels good!”
For Pulkkanen, it was a second runner-up finish of the season, having fallen narrowly short at last month’s Turkish Airlines Challenge, though the 27 year old has moved up into third spot in the Rankings with another eye-catching performance.
In what had been largely expected to be a two-horse race, Oliver Farr worked his way into contention around the turn, briefly closing to within two shots of the leaders, but the putts would not drop coming down the stretch and the Welshman had to settle for third place, six shots behind Suri on 17 under par.
Two shots further back, Spain’s Scott Fernandez sealed the best result of his career in fourth place, while Christopher Mivis’ closing round of 65 – the lowest of the day – earned the Belgian a share of fifth place alongside Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Frenchman Thomas Linard.