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Paratore powers to victory at Close House

Paratore powers to victory at Close House

Renato Paratore kept his cool to produce a brilliant display of front running and win his second European Tour title at the 2020 Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood.

Reanto Paratore

The European Tour made its full return after just over four months in hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic and while the atmosphere was very different with no fans present, Paratore looked like he had never been away.

The Italian entered the final day at Close House Golf Club with a one shot lead was only briefly caught in tough, windy conditions in the north east of England, carding a 69 to finish at 18 under, three shots ahead of Dane Rasmus Højgaard, who closed with a 70.

Paratore lost out in a play-off to Højgaard at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open earlier this season but never looked like being caught by the 19-year-old as he added to the Nordea Masters title he won in 2017.

Despite being just 23 years old, Paratore was playing in his 159th event and became the second Italian winner of this trophy after Baldovino Dassu in 1976.

"I'm just really, really happy," he said. "I played really solid. I didn't expect to come back and win my second one after lockdown but I worked really hard the last year."

There may not have been any fans to see the triumph but Paratore was greeted by a videocall from his mother and a guard of honour from his fellow players as he walked off the 18th green.

"It was really amazing," he said. "I didn't expect that from my friends here on Tour and it was a really good sensation and these are the moments I love.

"To see my mama was a big surprise and I was really, really happy."

With ten places at the U.S. Open up for grabs after five events of the UK Swing via the mini Order of Merit, Paratore is now aiming for a place in the field at Winged Foot Golf Club in September.

"I said to my caddie and my team - the goal is to go to the U.S. Open," he said. "The first tournament went well."

I played really solid. I didn't expect to come back and win my second one after lockdown but I worked really hard the last year

Paratore was not the only winner this week, with the #GolfforGood initiative raising over £100,000 for the event's Official Charity the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation.

On top of the European Tour's £50,000 donation, Betfred donated £50,000 for Jack Senior's hole-in-one on Friday and £16,000 for tournament host Lee Westwood's 16 birdies over the week.

South African Justin Harding finished at 14 under, a shot clear of home trio Robert Rock, Andy Sullivan and Dale Whitnell.

Harding played a beautiful pitch to set up an eight foot birdie on the third and join the lead but gave the shot straight back as he failed to find the green off the tee at the next.

Playing partner Paratore had no such trouble, holing from 25 feet to open up a two shot lead but Harding cut it back to one with a lengthy putt of his own on the fifth.

Paratore then made a two putt birdie on the par five seventh to give himself some breathing room, with Harding left frustrated as he three putted for par.

Another three putt from just off the ninth green brought another bogey but Harding did not lose ground as Paratore failed to get up and down from over the back, dropping his first shot of the week on his 63rd hole.

Højgaard recovered from a bogey on the second to make an excellent par save on the third and picked up a shot on the seventh to turn in level par, three shots off the lead.

A smart up and down got him within two but Paratore followed suit before the leader missed the green at the 11th and conceded a bogey.

Højgaard dropped a shot at the 15th and while he regained it at the par five 17th, Paratore got up and down from the sand on the same hole to take a three shot lead up the last.

Harding bogeyed the 14th on the back nine to sign for a 72, while Whitnell carded a 71, Rock registered a 69, and Sullivan recorded a 67.

Another Englishman in Oliver Fisher finished at 12 under, a shot clear of Northern Irishman Jonathan Caldwell and New Zealander Ryan Fox.

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