Sweden’s Christian Nilsson eased to his first European Tour victory with a faultless final round performance in the SAINT-OMER Open presented by Neuflize OBC.
Nilsson, who was the runner-up in this event last year, started the day with a four shot lead and never looked like relinquishing his advantage as he carded a bogey-free round of 69.
His final total of 13 under par ensured he finished six shots clear of Portugal’s José-Filipe Lima, who carded six birdies on his way to a closing round of 68.
On receiving the winner's trophy, together with a cheque for €100,000, Nilsson said: “It feels great, although I’m still in shock at the moment I think. It’s obviously a massive win for me, so it might take a while to realise just what it means.
“I was very nervous this morning and I didn’t sleep that well last night either. I was just trying to focus on how I was going to play, but so many thoughts were going round my head at the same time. So I was extremely pleased with how I handled the pressure today. I’m just so, so happy.”
Nilsson now receives an exemption on The European Tour for the remainder of this season and all of next.
He admitted: “That’s very important, because it means I’m going to get into all the big tournaments for the rest of the year, and allows me to plan my schedule for next season too. I had a tough start to the year, but now that's in the past, and I can look to the future.”
Lima was also looking to the future, after his runner-up cheque moved him to third place in the Challenge Tour Rankings.
He said: “I tried everything today to try to put some pressure on Christian, but he played really well again today. I tried to get to ten under, but in the end I didn’t manage it. I missed a few putts for birdie which might’ve made a difference, but it just wasn’t to be. He was too good. My game all week has also been very good, but just not quite good enough to take the title.
“But I’m still happy, because my second place means I’ve got as great chance of getting my European Tour card back through the Challenge Tour Rankings. And it also gives me great confidence to know my game is there. If I can take my form and confidence into the rest of the season, I’ll be very happy.”
Spain’s Javier Colomo and England’s Richard McEvoy closed with rounds of 66 and 67 respectively to finish tied for third on three under par, alongside Swede Åke Nilsson and Italian Lorenzo Gagli.
England’s James Morrison had started the day as Nilsson’s nearest challenger, but he had to be content with a share of seventh place after a round of 76 saw him slip to two under par for the tournament.
Dutchman Inder van Weerelt matched Colomo’s round of 66 to move into a tie for tenth place on one under par.