(Reuters) - Wentworth Club's Ross Fisher survived a worrying rules enquiry at Kennemer Golf and Country Club in The Netherlands before knowing he had broken through as a European Tour champion by winning The KLM Open.
Fisher birdied the final hole for a closing three under par 67 and a 12 under par 268 aggregate, to take the title by a stroke from young Dutchman Joost Luiten.
However, the 26 year old Englishman had to return to the 12th hole to prove to officials he had not broken a rule by lifting a bramble runner and then check out the incident on video before he was cleared to collect the €266,666 first prize. After a thorough examination of the incident Fisher's actions were not deemed illegal.
Fisher became the European Tour's 16th first-time winner of the season but even before the rules scare Fisher, who looked in control until the closing stages, made hard work of it in the end.
He led Luiten, who also birdied the last for a 66, by two strokes with three holes to play. But bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes, both by three-putting, left Fisher needing to hole an eight footer for birdie on 18th. However, his trials were not over.
After a spectator informed the Tour Officials of the alleged misdemeanor, Fisher had to try to prove he had not moved the bramble to his advantage.
He said: "It was a thin strand and I went to move it because I thought it was a loose impediment, but when I realised it was attached I literally left it alone.They deeemed it didn't improve my stance or my swing. I feel very fortunate."
The incident was reminiscent of a ruling at nearby Noordwijk in the 1992 Dutch Open when England's Mike McLean was penalised two strokes when it was proved by video evidence he had pulled up a bramble in the final round, after looking as though he had won. Because of his penalty McLean did not even make the play-off, won in sudden-death by Germany's Bernhard Langer over Scotland's Gordon Brand Jnr.
Having shared the overnight lead with New Zealander Steve Alker and fellow-Englishman David Carter, Fisher took over on his own with a birdie on the second and led the field by four shots after the 13th. Luiten, currently third on the Challenge Tour Rankings having won twice this year, refused to go away, though, and pressurised Fisher into his late mistakes as the 21 year old Dutchman closed with a 66.
Victory was redemption for Fisher, who shared the lead in Europe's flagship event in May, the BMW PGA Championship, going into the final round but eventually tied 39th place after shooting an 84. Runner-up Luiten will not be able to bank his €177,770 cheque because that will go to the Dutch Federation's Golf Team Holland, from whom he draws a salary on forfeit of prize money.
While Luiten will comfortably secure a European Tour card for next year from his Challenge Tour results, his European Tour earnings will put him close to a full card in any case.
Alker shared third place on eight under par, four shots behind Fisher, with Langer, who celebrated his 50th birthday the day after the tournament, Frenchman Thomas Levet, Swede Alex Noren and Scot Alastair Forsyth, while a 75 by Carter dropped him back to a tie for 23rd.