Englishman David J Russell put on a golfing master-class to win the French Riviera Masters, beating American Tim Thelen in a play-off after a brilliant seven under par 65 in the final round at Terre Blanche Resort and Golf Club.
The 58 year old needed three holes to win in sudden death, with both players twice making par at the 18th before Thelen bogeyed at the third attempt. That was his first dropped shot in 39 holes – two rounds of 66 taking him to eight under and tied for the lead in regulation play – but it handed the title to his rival, who made another four.
For much of the day it had looked to be Roger Chapman’s day, but there was late drama when the Englishman bogeyed the 16th and 18th to slip back to seven under with a 71. However, his consolation prize was that he now has an unassailable lead at the top of the Order of Merit and will be crowned Europe’s Number One after a remarkable season which has featured two Senior Major Championship victories.
Russell made eight birdies in the last round for the lowest score of the week, and was delighted to claim his second Senior Tour title.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said Russell. “It’s a shame that other people’s mistakes let you in, but I thought the golf was exceptional this afternoon and the scoring was excellent. It was unlucky for Tim there, but I’m absolutely delighted.
“I had a score in mind at the start of the day and that was to break 70 to give myself a chance of finishing in the top ten. So I excelled myself. It was one of those days when things went for you. You have enough days when you don’t, so I’m going to enjoy this.
“The ball seemed to be finding the cup from all over the place today. I played very nicely and holed a lot of putts. It’s a great bonus near the end of the season, and it establishes me in the Order of Merit.”
Thelen began the day with a fine eagle at the first en route to another impressive score, but ultimately he just missed out on collecting his third win of the season.
“I’m just very pleased with the way I’ve finished this tournament after starting off with a 76,” he said. “I hit the ball really badly on Friday, and after my round I went to the range for an hour and a half and managed to find something.
“I stuck with it and it has worked because the last two days I’ve played well, holed some putts and didn’t make a single bogey until the play-off.”
Chapman was frustrated to have thrown away victory, which would have continued his fairy tale season following triumphs in the US Senior PGA Championship and the US Senior Open, but he was philosophical about the result.
“I came here at the start of the week to consolidate number one spot in the Order of Merit and I’ve done that,” said the 53 year old. “I just wanted to beat Barry Lane (second in the Order of Merit) and I’ve done that, so every cloud has a silver lining.
“On the 18th I pulled my tee shot and had a really fluffy lie. I thought I was going to get a flier, but it just popped out and came up short. I hit a reasonable chip which had a bit of topspin on it and rolled about four feet past, but I pulled the putt. It was a tricky one down the hill.
“I hit a bad putt on the 16th too. I thought it was a lot quicker than it was, and I left it four feet short and missed the second one. So two four-footers missed have cost me. I knew exactly what the situation was.
“I was surprised there was a 65 and a 66 in those conditions, but they’ve obviously played really well so good luck to them.”