Haydn Porteous took a giant step forward to securing his place in the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, with his second European Tour victory at the D+D REAL Czech Masters.
The 23-year-old South African finished two shots ahead of England’s Lee Slattery after a thrilling final day at the Albatross Golf Resort to claim 166,660 points and jump from 105th to 61st spot in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings.
The win marks Porteous’s first win on Tour since his maiden triumph last season at the Joburg Open.
The result sees his season tally swell to 425,551 points, placing him in prime position to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship, taking place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 16-19.
“To get my second European Tour win under the belt just feels amazing,” said Porteous, who brought his good form to the Czech Republic after securing his first top ten finish of the season last week at the Made In Denmark.
“To start to feel as if I belong, it’s a big step in the right direction and I need to just carry on doing what I’m doing.
“I’m trying to get myself within the top 60 to get into the DP World Tour Championship and move up the Race to Dubai rankings. I’ll be working as hard as I can to get into the last stretch of big tournaments.Hopefully I can do that – I just have to take it one tournament at a time.”
What a week!🍾 Thank you so much to everyone involved this week! The sponsors, volunteers, my sponsors @uagolf @callawaygolfeu @titleistukireland #ACPI, and most importantly friends and family! #albatrossgolfresort thank you for the awesome memories! See you next year!🎉 #mydna #kaizen #czechmasters #5thmajor
Porteous came in to the final round of the D+D REAL Czech Masters two shots adrift of overnight leader Slattery but erased the deficit in a hurry as he birdied his first two holes of the day.
In the end, the man from Johannesburg carded half a dozen birdies during his final round as he signed for a closing 69 to get to 13 under par and prevail over Slattery by two shots.
Slattery’s runner-up finish at the D+D REAL Czech Masters earned him a healthy tally of 111,110 points. He now leapfrogs from 107th to 74th place in the Race to Dubai Rankings with a season total of 425,551 points. The Englishman is now only a few good finishes away from securing his place in November’s season finale.
Meanwhile Tom Lewis and Pontus Widegren picked up a much-needed 56,300 points each as they finished tied for third place to put themselves in a position to attempt a late charge up the Race to Dubai rankings. Lewis moves to 130th while Widegren is now in 156th spot.
Another man who improved his chances of qualifying for the season finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates was England’s James Morrison. He jumped from 94th to 87th in the Race to Dubai rankings after finishing tied for fifth in the Czech Republic.
Eddie Pepperell also made strides up the Race to Dubai rankings with his tied fifth place finish. He’s now in 89th place after picking up 33,100 points to take his season tally to 313,578.
Both Pepperell and Morrison will be aiming for a strong finish to the season in order to book their tickets to Dubai in November.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood remains at the head of the rankings with 3,771,122 points, whilst Spaniard Sergio Garcia is in second with a season-tally of 2,799,255 points and his young compatriot Jon Rahm sits in third spot on 2,761,857.
There were several permutations involved with the Race to Dubai at the start of the week, but Henrik Stenson ensured it was a straightforward conclusion, shooting a superb seven-under par 65 that helped him stay ahead of all his rivals and become European No. 1 for the second time.
The 40-year-old Swede, a Dubai resident for nearly a decade before moving to Florida, achieved the best-case scenario – he beat his three rivals who could have denied him the title by finishing tied ninth at 12-under par.
No. 2 Danny Willett was way behind, tied 50th at one-under par, while No. 3 Alex Noren could do no better than tied 23rd place at eightunder par. Rory McIlroy, who needed to win the tournament to have a chance, finished alongside Stenson.
The reigning Open champion said: “I’m very pleased to get my name on this trophy once again. It’s been a great year, the best year of my career. I’ve always thought it was going to be hard to top 2013, but I think I’ve done that this year.
“Maybe not to the level of golf over six months, but certainly with the highlights of winning The Open, the silver in Olympics and The Race to Dubai again. So it’s been a great year and it feels lovely to finish in this way.”
Stenson was also delighted with the way he ended his season – a 65 that contained eight birdies.
“Yeah, if you’re going to be Europe’s No. 1, you don’t want to finish with a 75, even if you can afford it,” quipped Stenson. “It was nice to play some good golf finally and to shoot a good number on a Sunday. That never hurts.
“It was a solid round of golf today, and just sneaked me into the top-10. Top-10s are always fine.”
Even though he was looking forward to a long family holiday, Stenson insisted he was not going to sit on his laurels.
“Golf is a game where you’re never finished. You can always keep improving. I’m no different. Given the competition that comes up every year, it gets harder every time. You’ve always got to keep on trying to become a better player and keep on moving forward. Otherwise you’re going to get run over and run past,” he added.
“There are areas I can improve for sure, but at the same time, I know that if I get my game in good shape and if every department is working, then I know I’ve got enough game to compete with the best and to beat the best.
“I hit some lovely wedge shots today, but that’s certainly one area where I feel like I can improve I think between 90 and 120 yards, there’s definitely room for improvement there.”
Having won the Race to Dubai title for a second time, to go with the two DP World Championships, Stenson revealed he had a special plan for the stunning trophies.
“I’m very pleased because I’ve got two titles. I have my home in Sweden and I have my home in America, so I can spread it out and make it look good in both places,” he added.
Exactly two years ago, Matthew Fitzpatrick was at the PGA Catalunya course in Spain, battling through the sixth and final round of the Qualifying School to secure his card on the European Tour.
In one of the most meteoric rises witnessed in the game, the 22-year-old on Sunday proved what a special talent he is by capturing the biggest title on the Tour – the DP World Tour Championship.
In between, he also qualified to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup and played in majors. It’s been a whirlwind for Fitzpatrick.
At the Earth course on Sunday, the Englishman held off another young compatriot, 25-year-old Tyrrell Hatton, after the two were involved in a dramatic finish.
Both Fitzpatrick and Hatton started the day one shot behind overnight leader Victor Dubuisson, and both looked solid as the others fell by the wayside.
But things started to become more interesting as they headed towards the closing stretch.
On the par-4 15th hole, Fitzpatrick pulled his tee shot into the trees and it looked so bad that he decided to play a provisional ball. But the original ball somehow came back in play after hitting a tree and Fitzpatrick managed to make a crucial par.
On the par-3 17th, Hatton’s tee shot got plugged in the bunker slope on the back wall. A bogey would have been a good result from there. He hacked the ball into the bunker, and then holed out his third shot to stay one ahead.
But on the 18th, his tee shot ran into the stream that bifurcates the fairway. From there, he could only make a bogey, while Fitzpatrick hit his second shot into the greenside bunker, from where he splashed out to four feet and made the birdie putt.
Fitzpatrick closed with a 67 for a 17-under par total, while Hatton’s 68 was good only for runner-up place at 16-under par 272.
“It’s a great way to end the season. This is my best result of my career. There isn’t anything better than that,” said Fitzpatrick, who broke the record of Nick Faldo in becoming the youngest Englishman to win three times on the European Tour.
“It’s two years to the day I got my card at the qualifying school. When you think about it, it’s crazy. It’s all happened so fast.
“There’s always times when I’ve just got to sit back and realise how far I’ve come. And before winning Nordea this year, I had won a Tour event, I had played in the Masters and got in top-50 in the world, and I was 21.
“There are not too many people that do that. And obviously to get my third win at 22, yeah, it is a very fast rise. Obviously it’s not always going to be the case. You’ve just got to take the highs while you can and just keep working hard when it’s not going your way.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick: He's 22, looks like he's in 5th grade, and is better at golf than you pic.twitter.com/8kgtunJ3aS— Golf Swagger (@mygogi) November 20, 2016
Hatton was obviously disappointed, but his consolation came in the form of finishing one place better than Rory McIlroy – fourth in the Race to Dubai.
The Marlow-based youngster, winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship earlier this year, said: “Obviously, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s been a great week and for me it’s been the best year of my life.
“So, I can’t get too downbeat, but these things happen. You know, it is what it is and I’m happy with how the week went. I’m sure hopefully in the future, I’ll take my next chance.”
South African Charl Schwartzel (67) was third two shots further behind at 274, while Dubuisson (72) was among those tied fourth at 275. That group included Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (68), Italian Francesco Molinari (70), Dane Soren Kjeldsen (68) and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts (71).