Thorbjørn Olesen held on for a first European Tour victory at the Sicilian Open despite a gallant challenge from Chris Wood, who equalled the Verdura Golf Resort & Spa course record.
The 22 year old Dane started the final round with a three shot lead after a brilliant 67 in blustery conditions on Saturday.
But while the third round had proved extremely testing, Sunday’s final round was played in glorious sunshine and perfect scoring conditions.
England’s Wood took full advantage, charging out the pack to catch Olesen on four separate occasions.
Olesen held firm, however, paring the difficult 17th and 18th holes for a round of 69 and a 15 under par aggregate total.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I had three seconds last year, so to finally get my first win is great.
“I've been playing some great golf this year, without all parts of my game coming together. But this week my long and short game both came together, and it feels fantastic to finally get over the line.
“I saw he [Wood] was doing well when I arrived at the ninth, so I knew I had to go for it and make birdies, so it kind of made up my mind for me that I had to play attacking golf.
“I was definitely a bit nervous. I was just trying to focus on one shot at a time, but that’s very difficult to do because your mind keeps thinking of other things. But I’m really happy to finish with a par on 18, because it’s a really tough golf hole. So when I found the green with my second shot, I was very happy.”
Wood, who now has six top-three finishes on The European Tour without a win, finished a shot further back in second, with Nicolas Colsaerts and Søren Kjeldsen tied for third on 12 under.
Wood charged out of the blocks to quickly turn the contest into a two-horse race.
After birdies at the second and third, a brilliant approach at the fourth left the 24 year old with a five foot eagle putt, and he birdied the fifth from six feet for good measure.
One behind at that point, the top two were level when Olesen made a nervous start, duffing a chip from the edge of the first green and bogeying.
The young Dane birdied the second from 15 feet to steady the ship, but Wood was level again when he birdied the seventh from three feet after a fine chip.
Olesen responded with an eight foot birdie putt at the fourth, and Wood almost led when his chip at the tenth lipped out.
He went ahead moments later as Olesen missed from six feet at the fifth, but it was a temporary blip as he rolled in a mid-range birdie putt at the sixth to level, and went back in front after finding the green in two at the par five seventh and two-putting.
Wood fought back again, birdieing the long 11th and holing a 40-footer at the next, only for Olesen to level before the turn with a 15 footer at the ninth.
Wood birdied the 14th as Olesen missed from two feet at the 13th, but the decisive swing came when both players found themselves out of position moments later.
Wood missed the fairway at the 17th and overshot the green with his approach, while Olesen tugged his second at the 14th left into thick rough.
But while Olesen produced a magnificent pitch for a tap-in birdie, Wood could only chip to ten feet and missed the clutch putt.
“I actually hit a terrible second shot on 14, but I managed to hit a great chip shot to set up the birdie chance, which was probably the most crucial shot of the week,” Olesen admitted.
He still had to par the difficult closing stretch, but there were no wobbles as he walked away with the €166,660 winner’s cheque.
Wood was rightly delighted with his performance, after he matched Peter Lawrie’s course record from the opening round.
“It’s been coming for a while,” he said. “I’ve been playing really well lately and not getting the scores.
“It’s nice to play well and give myself a chance. I put it in the worst possible position off the tee on 17, but didn’t play a bad shot into the green – just didn’t get any spin. The 18th was a tough hole, so I was pleased with a par to close. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough in the end, but I gave it my best shot and that’s all you can do.”
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