Darius van Driel survived an epic Sunday battle at the top of the leaderboard to claim his first win on the European Challenge Tour at the inaugural Euram Bank Open.
The Dutchman began the final round with a share of the lead alongside Scotland’s David Law — two shots clear of Road To Ras Al Khaimah leader Joachim B. Hansen and American Sean Crocker, who made the cut at last week’s 147th Open Championship.
After his second birdie of the day on the par four fifth hole, van Driel had taken sole possession of the lead but was quickly joined by Crocker after he started his final round with birdies on four of the first seven holes.
Crocker briefly held the solo-lead following a van Driel bogey on the par three eighth hole, but when the American dropped a shot at the 9th, van Driel reasserted himself atop the Euram Bank Open leaderboard by birdieing the same hole.
The lead continued to change hands throughout the back-nine and by the time the penultimate pairing reached the penultimate hole, all four players in the final two groups were tied on 16 under par.
Crocker was the first of the quartet to fall off as he bogeyed the par four 17th hole and was then joined by his playing partner Hansen on 15 under par as the Dane made a four on the closing par three.
“On 17 I thought ‘well this is the one’ and luckily I made birdie there,” van Driel said. “It helped me to take a one stroke lead to the last, which is what you want on a par three.”
Law did not drop a shot the entire final day, but he could only manage to make par on the closing holes.
Van Driel barely missed the green on the 72nd hole and played a quality shot to within a few feet of the cup, but the distance left for victory felt much longer for The Hague resident who had never won on the Challenge Tour.
“It was a little bit too long,” he said. “I know I chipped it close, but it was still too far away to really be at ease about it. I felt my hands shaking, but luckily it went in.
“It feels great. At the start of the season I didn’t think it would be possible to win this year, but it all came together this week, so I’m very happy with it.”
With the win, van Driel jumps 126 places on the Road To Ras Al Khaimah and is now in a position to make a push towards finishing the season inside the top-15 as several key events on the Challenge Tour International Schedule remain.
“This changes things big time,” he said. “I was already planning on preparing for Q-School but now I move up a few spots in the rankings, so it changes a lot.
“The end of last year and the start of this year I switched between clubs a little bit and found it hard to get into the groove.
“The last few weeks there have been a lot of birdies but also a lot of bogeys. This week, apart from the first round, I kept the bogeys off my card and that was the key to winning.”