Robert Rock ended his nine-year wait for a first European Tour title with a bold display to capture the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi.
The 34 year old Englishman completed a wire-to-wire victory with a closing 67 that left him 21 under for the week, one ahead of Thorbjorn Olesen and Gary Boyd.
“I’m very surprised to finally win, but once I got started today I felt quite comfortable and I figured that this was as good a chance as I was ever going to have,” said Rock, after winning on The European Tour at the 209th attempt.
“I was surprised to see Thorbjorn Olesen shoot ten under so that got me thinking that I needed to make a few birdies to win but right now it feels great.
“I thought I would eventually do it. It’s taken longer than planned but it’s incredibly hard to win on this Tour. There are great players already out here and new ones arriving all the time like we saw today with Thorbjorn, so my best weeks have just not quite been good enough before. I’ve had good results but I’ve come up short. Finally, it’s all gone my way.”
But it was far from straightforward on a day when the Royal Park I Roveri course offered up plenty of birdie opportunities.
The 21 year old Dane Olesen certainly needed no second invitation – he had already completed a stunning front-nine 29 by the time Rock teed off, and eventually signed for a ten under 62 that set the clubhouse target at 20 under.
Rock, two clear overnight, seemed understandably nervous over the opening holes and bogeyed the third after failing to get up and down.
But he reeled off four consecutive birdies from the fifth, and gains at the tenth and 11th put him ahead of Olesen.
One of Rock’s three runner-up finishes came at this venue two years ago, and the possibility of him suffering the same fate increased with a bogey at the 12th.
Rock responded in style with a 15 footer for birdie at the 13th as Boyd was signing for a 66 with a four foot birdie at the last.
Needing to par his way in, Rock looked to be in big trouble when his drive at the 17th went way right into the trees.
However, he produced a fantastic escape onto the fairway, pitched to 12 feet and bravely holed his clutch putt for par.
“I was very lucky there,” he added. “My option was to chip out but I reckoned if I did that I would be struggling to make par and would have to make a birdie at the last to win.
“There was a gap and I like going for those when there is one available. I took a four iron but it caught the trees as it was going out and could very easily have gone in the water but didn’t so that made me feel it was probably going to be my day.”
Boyd was pleased with his improved showing, after a disappointing start to the season had seen him down at 162nd on The Race to Dubai at the start of the week.
“I saw Olesen was 19 under par when I had played nine holes and knew I could have a chance,” he said. “He birdied the last and I knew the target was 20. Rocky was making a few birdies and I played the last five holes really well under the microscope. Hit some loose tee shots but scrambled well.”
Earlier Challenge Tour graduate Olesen had birdied the first two, then saw his approach to the third bounce once into the cup for eagle.
Three further birdies followed before the turn, and although he bogeyed the 11th, he responded with a hattrick of gains before another birdie at the last.
“It was amazing to start with two birdies and then holed my second shot for an eagle at the third,” he said.
“I think it’s the first time I’ve holed a full shot in a tournament so it felt magic. 23 putts today – I spoke to Thomas Björn after my third round and he gave me a little lesson, so thanks Thomas!
“My golf has been good last week and this week. I found something in my swing.”
Scotland’s Pete Whiteford claimed his third consecutive top-ten finish as he finished fourth on 19 under, one ahead of Dutchman Joost Luiten.
“Three top-tens are unlike me. Normally it’s two missed cuts, but the form’s there,” said Whiteford.
“I was on Challenge Tour for five years – I think I had honorary membership – and also played the EuroPro Tour. I served my time and hopefully we don’t look back.
“They were great fun but this is where I want to be. My game’s come round the last month or two and I was looking for a high finish this week rather than getting money to keep my card. That’s done and dusted now and I can press on now.”
There were large galleries following the action once again in Turin, but local favourite Francesco Molinari and 18 year old sensation Matteo Manassero struggled to mount a serious challenge as they finished in a share of eighth place.