Espen Kofstad sealed Olympic qualification in the most dramatic fashion, beating Romain Langasque on the second play-off hole to win the D+D REAL Slovakia Challenge the day before places in the Rio 2016 field are finalised.
The Norwegian had led at the halfway stage before being blown off course on day three, but a terrific eight under par final round of 64 gave him the clubhouse lead on 17 under par at Penati Golf Resort.
France’s Langasque, who led for much of the day, could not birdie the last and, after the first play-off hole was halved in par, Kofstad holed from ten feet for birdie to seal a first Challenge Tour victory since 2012 and climb to fourth place in the Road to Oman Rankings.
The 29 year old had barely played for the last two years as he endured a career-threatening spell of injuries, but, back in the winner’s circle and now set for the Olympics, he was understandably elated.
“It’s been a long way to come here,” he said. “Looking at where I was in November, with shooting pains all down my legs, I didn’t know what was going on, so to do this is amazing.
“I hope this is enough to get into the Olympics, but I should have locked up the place right now so it’s all good. I’ve been going for it all year, and getting closer and closer to getting in, but it’s all about playing well and winning golf tournaments.
“I left it late, until the last hole, but winning solves a lot of things and I think it now has solved this one and got me into Rio.
“Yesterday wasn’t as bad as it looked, but I had a bit of work to do today. Today it was flat calm and I decided to try to shoot ten under and see if that was enough, but luckily eight under got me in a play-off.
“The play-off was nervy, the first hole was really bad. I then settled down a little bit and we had almost the same putt on the second hole, and mine was in all the way.
“It means so much. I didn’t know what I was going to do a couple of years back when it first started and I couldn’t get off the floor. I’ve worked really hard, stayed patient and had really good people around me, so it’s great to be here now.”
oining Kofstad in Rio, in similarly dramatic circumstances, will be Ryan Fox after the New Zealander shot a five under par 67 in the final round to finish in a tie for fourth with Alexander Bjӧrk and Max Orrin.
Overnight, Mike Hendry had secured a strong finish in Japan, meaning Fox needed to finish seventh or better, and it was very much in doubt until back-to-back eagles on holes 14 and 15 – the 783-yard par six, the longest hole in Europe – saw him leap up the leaderboard.
James Heath was close to adding a second title in three weeks, following victory at the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge, but he had to settle for third place, though will be confident with his game as he heads to Royal Troon for this week’s Open Championship.