Ricardo Santos fired a stunning nine under par 63 on home soil in the final round of the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal to claim his maiden European Tour title.
The 29 year old delighted the home crowds as he overhauled overnight leader Carlos Del Moral and withstood the challenge of Andreas Hartø to finish four shots clear on22 under par – a record low total for the event.
Del Moral started the day three shots ahead, but his challenge faltered with a triple bogey seven at the ninth and ultimately signed for a 73 to finish tied fourth, while Hartø reached the turn in six under par, but could not maintain the momentum. Three bogeys in four holes from the 12th proved costly, and he had to settle for third place, one shot behind Magnus A Carlsson, who finished on 18 under thanks to a 67.
Santos, a 2011 Challenge Tour graduate, produced a nerveless, flawless performance when it mattered most, however, sinking a monster putt on the 17th to all but guarantee victory and then adding gloss to the finish with another birdie at the last.
He is the first Portuguese player to win a European Tour event in his home country, and he said: “It is very emotional and I haven’t got the words to describe how I feel.
“To win my first European Tour event in my own country is very special. The putt on the 17th was unbelievable, and I knew then that victory was mine.
“It was a sensational round – definitely the best of my career. It was amazing to have the crowds here supporting me. It would be difficult to imagine a better win than this.
“I didn’t have many bad moments in the round, but the supporters were always there to pick me up and keep me going. This is a huge moment in my career.
“I just played very solidly all the way round. I kept hitting fairways and greens and trying to hole putts, and luckily my putting was incredible today.”
Santos was 105th in The Race to Dubai heading into this event, largely thanks to finishing tied tenth in the Avantha Masters in February, but rises to 50th with the €112,500 earned for this victory.
He added: “This will now mean I’ll definitely be playing Wentworth, because before this I was only sixth reserve, and I can’t wait for that. I will have to have another look at my schedule and maybe re-think where I am going to play.”
Hartø was disappointed to have come up just short, but overall was happy with the way he played throughout the week.
“The front nine was incredible today,” said the 23 year old. “I holed some really, really long putts. Unfortunately I just couldn’t keep it going and I missed some short ones on the back nine.
“There was a point where I saw a leaderboard and saw I was in front, and it’s hard not to think about winning. I tried to put it out of my head and just concentrate on playing the next shot.
“But this is a great week for me. It’s like a Major on the Challenge Tour so it’s important to finish well, and I’ve done that with two great rounds at the weekend. There are many positives to take from this.”