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The Season so far: First time winners

The Season so far: First time winners

From Rasmus Højgaard to Joachim B. Hansen, we take a closer look at the thirteen players that have earned their maiden European Tour titles so far this season.

Joachim B. Hansen

Of the 34 events played so far this season, the European Tour has witnessed dramatic moments, record-breaking achievements, and watched eleven players break into the winners’ circle for the first time.

For Rasmus Højgaard and Sami Välimäki, the experience of a winning moment took just a handful of events, while others, such as Hero Open winner Sam Horsfield, had to wait a little longer.

Here, we recap the winning moments of the season’s first-time champions so far…

Rasmus Højgaard

In just his fifth start, Rasmus Højgaard became the third youngest player in history to win on the European Tour at 18 years and 271 days when he claimed the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

The young Dane captured his maiden title in dramatic fashion, making a final hole birdie in regulation play before closing out his victory with an eagle on the third play-off hole at Heritage Golf Club.

He had started the day a shot back but assumed the lead with a birdie, eagle start before being caught and overtaken by Antoine Rozner and Renato Paratore with just a few holes to go.

After joining both players on 19 under thanks to a birdie at the 18th, Højgaard quickly set up an opportunity to win but missed a 12 foot eagle putt on the first trip back up the par five last. He then halved the hole in birdies with Rozner at the second attempt, and then made his three from similar range at the third time of asking to take the title.

His victory made him the fastest Dane to a European Tour title, beating 15 time European Tour winner and 2018 Ryder Cup winning Captain Thomas Bjørn's record of 24 events.

Since his maiden win, Højgaard has added to his list of accolades, winning for a second time in his 15th start at the ISPS HANDA UK Championship.

Race to Dubai Show – Dream Mauritius win for teen Højgaard

Lucas Herbert

In the 50th European Tour appearance of his career, Lucas Herbert won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with a memorable play-off victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

The duo had both started the day six shots behind overnight leader Ashun Wu, but as the field struggled with difficult conditions at Emirates Golf Club, Bezuidenhout emerged as the man to beat.

The South African stood on the 18th fairway with a two shot lead but found the water with his approach and dropped a shot, which Herbert responded to with a birdie-birdie finish to force the contest into extra holes.

The tournament seemed to be in Bezuidenhout’s hands when Herbert found the water with his second on the first play-off hole, but a stunning approach helped him save par and force an extra hole. This time, a two putt birdie was enough to earn the 24 year old his maiden European Tour title.

Race to Dubai Show – Herbert’s Australia Day Celebration

Min Woo Lee

Min Woo Lee held his nerve in difficult conditions to win his first European Tour title at the 2020 ISPS Handa Vic Open, in what was his 19th start on Tour.

Lee, who held a three shot overnight lead, chipped in at the first hole and maintained an advantage over the field for the entirety of the day.

That lead was briefly cut to just one as Ryan Fox set the clubhouse target with a blistering final round 64, but Lee made a final hole birdie to finish two shots clear of the New Zealander.

One particularly special note about Lee’s victory was that he added to the family legacy at 13th Beach Club, his elder sister Minjee a winner there as both an amateur in 2014 and during the Ladies European Tour’s equivalent event in 2018.

"My sister and I winning the same tournament, it's pretty special," he said. "I've got bragging rights now so it's even better."

Min Woo Lee

Sami Välimäki

Sami Valimaki had only just earned his card at Qualifying School when he lifted his first title at the Oman Open, which marked just his sixth European Tour start.

With a stunning 64 on Saturday, Valimaki had entered the final round in a six way tie for the lead, and while both he and Brandon Stone held their own, it was Frenchman Adrien Saddier who set the clubhouse target at 12 under.

Stone had then celebrated wildly as he holed a 20 footer on the last to get to 13 under but drama followed as Välimäki holed from similar range for his own closing gain and a round of 70 to take the contest to extra holes.

The duo halved the 18th in pars twice but when Stone sent his second shot crashing into the stand on the third trip and failed to get up and down, a par was enough to hand Välimäki victory.

"It's awesome," he said. "There are not many words to say, it's unbelievable.

Joël Stalter

Joël Stalter achieved something of a full circle when he lifted his first professional title at the Euram Bank Open in Austria, which marked the second event of the Tour’s return following a four month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nine years earlier, Stalter had won the Austrian Amateur Championship at this same venue, and came out on top for a much bigger milestone at Golf Club Adamstal as finished two strokes clear of England’s Richard Mansell in his 43rd start on Tour.

Having started the day four shots behind Robin Sciot-Siegrist, the Frenchman kept his nerve to move ahead at the 10th, and recovered from a drop shot at 14 with another gain at 15 to set the clubhouse target at 14 under par. Mansell was unable to match him, and Stalter was quick to credit his fiancé, who was also his caddie, as a huge factor in his first win.

“Coming back nine years later and winning here again is very special,” said Stalter, whose win earned him a Tour card. “I had a Challenge Tour category and now I’m a European Tour winner, it’s been my biggest dream since I turned pro, it’s amazing.

“My girlfriend kept me in the right mentality, I just kept hitting really good shots. She’s helped so much and kept me in the right mentality and on track the whole week. Instead of being by myself on a day like this, it was a tremendous help. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

joel stalter flora

Sam Horsfield

Sam Horsfield overcame Thomas Detry in a thrilling final day battle to win his first European Tour title at the 2020 Hero Open.

The Englishman entered round four at Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel & Country Club with a one shot lead and sat atop the leaderboard almost all day until Detry passed him with a birdie on the 17th.

That was the first time Horsfield - who held a six shot lead at the turn on Saturday - had not been in pole position all weekend but a Detry bogey on the last put him back in a share of top spot.

A birdie on the par five 17th then put the 23-year-old back in the solo lead and he held his nerve up the last to sign for a 68, an 18 under par total and a maiden victory in his 65th European Tour appearance.

Two weeks later, Horsfield claimed his second Tour title at Celtic Manor Resort with a one shot victory at the Celtic Classic.

Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa claimed his maiden Major Championship title at just his second attempt after holding off a host of world class challengers to win the 2020 US PGA Championship.

The California native did not put a foot wrong at TPC Harding Park on Sunday, producing back nine fireworks to sign for a flawless 64 and finish on 13 under par, two shots clear of overnight leader Dustin Johnson and Englishman Paul Casey, who ran him close in a thrilling final round.

The 23-year-old, playing in his first US PGA, was part of a six way tie for first place as he reached the 14th tee but chipped in from a tricky spot just short of the green for an unlikely birdie to break the logjam and lead on his own on 11 under. Casey took a share of the lead at 16 but Morikawa produced a stunning eagle at the same hole a few minutes later to open up a two shot lead, before parring the final two holes to secure victory at the first Major of 2020.

"I'm on cloud nine right now," he said. "It's hard to think about what this championship means, and obviously it's a Major, and this is what guys go for, especially at the end of their career, and we're just starting.

"So I think this is just a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum, and it just gives me a little taste of what's to come."

Collin Morikawa

Romain Langasque

Romain Langasque carded a brilliant bogey free 65 to overturn a five shot deficit and win his first European Tour title on a dramatic final day of the 2020 ISPS HANDA Wales Open.

The Frenchman was very much in the chasing pack at the start of the day at The Celtic Manor Resort but, as the leaders moved in the wrong direction, the 2015 Amateur Championship winner produced a putting and short game masterclass.

He produced six birdies to surge through a congested leaderboard and finish at eight under, two shots clear of Finn Välimäki.

His victory, which came in his 78th event, moved him in to the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the second time in his career, and earned him a spot in the U.S. Open through the UK Swing Order of Merit standings.

“Everything in golf can go so quick," he said. "I’m really happy, this is where we all want to be. Now I’ll have some good opportunities. I need to focus again, but it’s where I’m looking forward to go.

"Playing my first U.S. Open this year, the good thing is with no public there’s less pressure on it being my first one. I’m really proud of myself."

Romain Langasque header

John Catlin

A four-time Asian Tour winner, American Catlin is no stranger to the winner's circle. And the 29-year-old claimed a first European Tour title with a composed display in southern Spain, seeing off former World Number One Martin Kaymer in a thrilling final round battle that went down to the very last hole.

Catlin was unable to make any birdies in his closing 75 but produced some wonderful par saves to stay in the hunt on the back nine and finished the tournament on two over par at one of Europe's toughest courses.

"My past experience was very helpful in that regard, I knew I had done it before,” said Catlin.

“Even when things were not quite going my way in the early part of that back nine, I knew if I just stayed patient and kept going I would give myself a chance. That was one of my goals in 2019 when I earned my card, to win on the European Tour, and I wasn’t able to win in 2019 so it’s very nice to get it done this week and especially on a beautiful golf course, and very demanding one. The calibre of play out here is fantastic so to win out here is amazing.”

Three weeks later, Catlin won again, this time triumphing at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Garrick Higgo

Garrick Higgo produced a stunning bogey free 65 on the final day of the Open de Portugal to claim his maiden title on just his seventh European Tour start.

The left-handed South African, who was last year's Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year, had only played a handful of holes of his third round when Saturday's play was suspended due to darkness, leaving him to finish the majority of both third and fourth rounds on Sunday.

He went on to close out a third round 66, putting him one stroke behind overnight leader Lopes, but quickly joined the lead with an opening birdie at the start of his fourth round.

Five front nine birdies, including a chip-in on the sixth hole, saw him make the turn in 31 before further gains on the 11th and the 18th saw him finish on 19 under par - one stroke ahead of Spain's Pep Angles.

The 21-year-old dropped just three shots during the tournament – a double bogey on his sixth hole of the week and that bogey on the tenth during his second round – and will now receive additional European Tour playing rights after winning in Portugal, an event which was dual-ranked with the European Challenge Tour.

“It feels awesome,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a little bit easier over the last three holes but he [Pep Angles] made it a bit tough. That birdie on the last was really, really nice.

“I just really enjoyed it and I just made sure I had fun out there."

Higgo trophy

Callum Shinkwin

Callum Shinkwin defeated Kalle Samooja in a play-off to win his first European Tour title after a dramatic final day at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open.

The Englishman was two shots behind the Finn as he stood on the 17th tee in regulation and while a birdie there edged him closer, his chances of victory looked slim when he found rough off the tee at the par five last.

An excellent second shot over the water saw him find the putting surface and he holed an incredible 54 foot putt for eagle to take a one shot lead at 20 under after a closing 63.

Playing in the final group of the day, Samooja left himself an eagle chance from almost exactly the same spot and a two putt birdie handed him a closing 64 and took us to extra holes.

Shinkwin found the greenside bunker with his second shot at the first trip back up the last but got up and down for a birdie, with Samooja's three putt from the fringe making Shinkwin a winner in his 112th European Tour event.

"It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I have," he said after his victory. "It’s been a bit of a shock but it feels great.

"I felt relaxed all day, I felt great, to be fair. 15 and 16 were playing me up all week. I was more nervous playing those two holes just to get through them than in the play-off or on the 18th. I managed to get through them really well and I felt great.

"I noticed at the start of the week they have cider here, which I love. They’ve got Somersby and Kopparberg so I think I’ll celebrate with a few of them tonight.

Callum Shinkwin

Robert MacIntyre

Robert MacIntyre produced a birdie-birdie finish to win his first European Tour title at the 2020 Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown.

The Scot had been a picture of consistency all week at Aphrodite Hills Resort, comfortably finishing in the pack as the field was cut to 32 and then 19 players after rounds two and three, with the scores reset to par for the final two days as part of the innovative format.

He finished in a tie for third over this layout last week at the Cyprus Open after a closing 65, and he went one shot better seven days later to finish at seven under, a stroke clear of Japan's Masahiro Kawamura.

"It's unbelievable, it's what I've dreamed of as a wee kid," said MacIntyre.

"Watching Scottish Opens at Loch Lomond and to finally play on Tour and give myself a lot of chances last year, this week the format suited me and we took it out.

"This is what I've been working for. It's been a difficult few months for me, only my family know what is going on. I can't believe it."

Robert MacIntyre

Joachim B. Hansen

Joachim B. Hansen claimed his first European Tour title with a brilliantly composed bogey free round of 67 on the final day of the 2020 Joburg Open.

The Dane had entered day four a shot behind Wilco Nienaber and with the duo clear of the rest of the field, a two horse race soon developed at Randpark Golf Club.The local favourite turned in 32 to open up a three shot lead heading into the back nine but Hansen displayed nerves of steel as he birdied the tenth, 12th and 14th to fight his way back to the top of the leaderboard at 19 under.

There were tears in Hansen's eyes after he holed the winning putt to complete a long journey to European Tour victory ten years after turning professional.

"It's quite emotional," he said. "This is what we work for, you know? The family watching back home.

"Wilco got in front quite quick, by three shots, and we managed to stick to our game and our plan.

"He's long, he's got some good things with the game hitting it very far and very straight so we knew we had to go out and do our own and do the things we've done the first three days. We succeeded pretty well today"

Joachim B. Hansen

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