Matthew Fitzpatrick, winner of the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, gave himself the perfect fillip as the countdown to the defence of his title at Jumeirah Golf Estates begins by claiming his fourth European Tour title in dramatic fashion at the Omega European Masters.
The 23 year old, who won the Race to Dubai’s grand finale with a one-stroke victory over Tyrrell Hatton last year, had endured a relatively quiet season with just two top ten finishes to his name prior to arriving in Switzerland. After beating Australia’s Scott Hend at the third hole of a sudden-death play-off, the Englishman is now in a strong position with ten tournaments, including four big-money Rolex Series events, still to play.
“I hope this win is a turning point for me,” said Fitzpatrick who has now won at least one European Tour title in each of his three seasons on Tour.
“It had been a bit of a disappointing season for me so far, but this is my third year now on Tour with a win under my belt, so I’m really happy with that.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to the DP World Tour Championship to defend my title and now that I’ve won, my confidence is higher than it has been all season. Hopefully I can keep this momentum heading into the final four events of the season and then be ready to put in a strong title defense at Jumeirah Golf Estates.”
Fitzpatrick, who is now 12th in the Race to Dubai Rankings, started the final round four shots behind leader Hend, but turned on the style with four birdies in an electric front nine of 32. He repeated the feat down the homeward stretch to match the 44 year old at 14 under par.
It looked like Hend, who also missed out on Omega European Masters glory in a play-off to Alex Noren last year, was headed for victory on the second repeat trip up the 18th but he missed a six-foot birdie putt to let Fitzpatrick back in.
The Ryder Cup star capitalized when Hend found the bunker with his next tee shot and then overshot the green leaving Fitzpatrick to get up and down for victory.
Despite missing out in the Swiss mountains for the second year running, Hend earned 300,000 points for his runner-up finish and moved from 55th to 31st place in the Race to Dubai. His season-total of 762,814 means he is all but guaranteed to join Fitzpatrick in the DP World Tour Championship field, open only to the top 60 players on the rankings.
England's Tyrrell Hatton and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti shared third place, each claiming 152,010 points. Hatton progressed from 45th to 35th while Zanotti jumped from 24th to 21st in the Race to Dubai.
Finland's Mikko Ilonen finished in fifth place to win 114,480 points, which moved him from 140th to 106th while South Africa's Darren Fichardt, Sweden's Alex Noren and England's Lee Slattery shared sixth place, each gaining 81,000 points in the process.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood remains at the head of the rankings with 3,771,122 points, while Spaniard Sergio Garcia is in second with a season-tally of 2,799,255 points and Jon Rahm sits in third spot on 2,761,857.