Sven Strüver birdied the 18th hole twice in the space of 15 minutes at Golf Club Crans-sur-Sierre to capture his three European Tour title and leap to the head of the year-long marathon race to qualify for the 1999 Ryder Cup.
The 31 year old from Hamburg sank a six footer first time around to tie Swede Patrik Sjöland on a 21-under-par total of 263. No sooner had he marked and checked his card than Strüver returned to the 18th hole and promptly rolled in an eight foot birdie attempt to claim the £133,330 top prize.
Italian Open champion Sjöland, who had seen a four stroke overnight lead disappear by the seventh on a sunny Sunday in the Swiss Alps, just failed seconds earlier with his birdie putt from ten feet and had to settle for second place.
Strüver, winner of the Alfred Dunhill South African PGA in 1996 and the Dutch Open last year, admitted: “I felt I was playing on another planet! Even after Patrik birdied the 17th to go one in front I knew I could still win if I concentrated”.
The German confessed that “concentration” had been the key element in his victory which elevates him to 12th place in the Volvo Ranking with £259,013. He explained that he had learned that special mental toughness from a famous practitioner of that skill - compatriot Bernhard Langer.
He said: “If you want to know the best advice I ever received from Bernhard you just had to watch me over the last two holes today. I was concentrating absolutely. That’s what makes Langer so special. His concentration.
“Maybe my win is all down to the German tradition to work hard! When I turned pro I learned a lot from Bernhard. He invited me to his house, we played together and I learned course management from him.”
Strüver thought he needed “a 63 or 64” to catch Sjöland, who seemed to have the tournament at his mercy when he opened up a four shot lead after three rounds. In the end, a five-under-par 66 was sufficient to catch the improving Swede.
With rounds of 65, 66 and 62 - the lowest of the week - Sjöland led on a 20-under-par total of 193, just one shot outside the European Tour record. Strüver was on 197 with first round leader Darren Clarke, who shot a 64 on Thursday, menacingly place back on 198.
Defending champion Costantino Rocca faltered on the final day after a promising start, leaving the stage to the “big three” of Strüver, Sjöland and Clarke.
The Irishman sprinted from the blocks with two quick birdies but lost momentum with a double bogey at the third. Despite an inward 32 for a closing 67, he said: “I’m not making things happen on Sundays. I gave myself an awful lot of chances but couldn’t take them”. Clarke claimed third place to win £50,070 which kept him in second place above Colin Montgomerie in the Volvo Ranking and behind Lee Westwood.
The Swede went ahead with a birdie at the 17th but Struver’s riposte at the last earned him a play-off.
“I played well but not well enough” said Sjöland. “I shaved the hole at the seventh, eighth and ninth and that was costly”.
Finally it was left to Strüver to convert his two chances at the 18th. The German was then truly King of the Mountains.