Erik Van Rooyen booked his spot in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship after jumping into the top ten of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai following a thrilling final day battle with Matthew Fitzpatrick at the Scandinavian Invitation.
The South African, who was last season’s European Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year, started the final day at Hills Golf & Sports Club with a one-shot lead before stretching that to three shots on the back nine.
A birdie-birdie finish from Fitzpatrick closed the gap and when Van Rooyen bogeyed the 17th, the players were tied at 18 under. But the 29-year-old held his nerve for a closing birdie to seal a one-stroke victory and a maiden European Tour title.
“It’s too good, it’s hard to describe,” said Van Rooyen, who climbs up to ninth from 19th in the Race to Dubai Rankings after picking up 460 points.
“I was so nervous on 18. On 17 I was fine, I just didn’t hit that putt hard enough and then I asked (caddie) Alex, ‘what are we at?’ and he told me that Matt went birdie-birdie.
“I’ve been putting so well all day and to hole that one to win my first title is pretty cool.I’ve gone close a bunch of times and every time I’m in contention the question gets asked. I’m just so proud of myself and Alex and everybody, I’m over the moon.”
Fitzpatrick edged closer to the top five of the Race to Dubai Rankings after moving from ninth to sixth with his third runner-up finish of the season.
Meanwhile, Dean Burmester and Henrik Stenson finished four shots further back to share third place in Gothenburg.
Burmester’s best result of the season gives him some much-needed ranking points with the South African making his way up to 101st from 142nd.
Stenson, who had aced the par 3 sixth to take a share of the lead early in the final round, jumps up to 24th from 35th after collecting 154.5 Race to Dubai points.
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Rory McIlroy exorcised two demons at the same time after winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title for the second time in four years to pocket the US dollars 15million (£12.3million) first prize in Atlanta.
McIlroy carded a closing 66 at East Lake to finish 18 under par, four shots ahead of American Xander Schauffele.
World number one Brooks Koepka, who held a one-shot lead after the completion of the delayed third round, ran up a double bogey on the seventh and carded a hat-trick of bogeys on the back nine to slip into a tie for third with Justin Thomas.
A year ago McIlroy played alongside Tiger Woods in the final round as the 15-time major winner was victorious at East Lake and just weeks he ago he partnered Koepka on the last day of the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, carding a 71 to the American’s closing 65.
“I didn’t enjoy that walk last year like everyone else did, I played terribly,” admitted McIlroy, who joins Woods as the only two-time FedEx Cup winners. “I got myself in the final group and never took the fight to Tiger.
“Going up against the number one player in the world today, he got one over on me in Memphis and I wanted to sort of try to get some revenge today so to play like that alongside Brooks and get the win, win the FedEx Cup it’s awesome.
“It’s amazing how different things can be in a year.”
McIlroy began the week by questioning the radical format which saw the player with the most FedEx Cup points after the BMW Championship (Thomas) starting on 10 under par.
The second-highest points earner began at eight under, the third-ranked player at seven under and so on, on a sliding scale down to the players in 26th to 30th who started on level par.
McIlroy started on five under par and could therefore have shot the lowest 72-hole score and still not have won the title, but in the end his total of 13 under was the best in the field by three.
“My goal today was to go and shoot the lowest score of the week,” McIlroy added. “I made those two bogeys on 14 and 15 and a huge par save on 16 and then was able to birdie the last two.
“Such a cool way to end what has been for me a great season. I’ll look back on this season and there’s been a lot of good things I’ve done and I’ll try to improve again for next year.
“I’ve given myself so many chances. To win three times is awesome. I feel like I could have won more but to win the FedEx Cup again, to keep giving myself chances even when I was getting knocked back, I’m very proud of myself and I’m going to enjoy this one tonight.”
McIlroy began the final round a shot behind playing partner Koepka and both men opened with five straight pars before making a birdie on the par-five sixth, but the turning point came at the next as Koepka made a double bogey following a lost ball off the tee and McIlroy holed from 20 feet for birdie.
Koepka responded superbly to birdie the next as McIlroy enjoyed a major stroke of luck when his pulled approach hit a tuft of grass on the edge of a drain and stopped short of the water.
Birdies on the 12th and 13th took McIlroy four shots clear and although he bogeyed the next two holes and had to hole from eight feet on 16 to avoid an unwanted hat-trick, McIlroy effectively sealed victory with a birdie on the 17th and rounded off the week in style with another on the par-five 18th.
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Thomas Pieters edged closer to securing a fifth consecutive appearance at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship after breaking into the top 50 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with his first victory in three years at the Czech Masters.
The Belgian, who secured his maiden win at the same venue in 2015, led from start to finish on Sunday, with four birdies on the front nine keeping the chasing pack at arm’s length and a further gain at the 12th powering him over the line for a one-stroke triumph over Spaniard Adri Arnaus.
“It feels good to win again, I never doubted myself but it’s just been a long road of not feeling that great with the golf swing,” said Pieters, who finished on 19 under par to jump up to 42nd from 66th in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
“It’s difficult when everybody says you should be winning two or three times a year. It’s always nice to hear that– but it’s almost a negative sometimes because I always felt like I was underachieving. Hopefully now there’s many more days like this.”
Despite missing out on a maiden victory, Arnaus continued his superb form on his rookie year on the European Tour after posting his third runner-up finish in 2019. The 2018 Challenge Tour graduate moves up 16 places to 30th in the Race to Dubai Rankings, putting him in contention for a debut outing at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I never gave up, I tried to make some birdies coming in and see if he would make a mistake but he didn’t,” he said.
“Every week I come out here I learn and I’ll take a lot from this one I’m sure. I’m just enjoying the process at the moment and hopefully I can be up there again in the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile, last year’s winner Andrea Pavan and Sam Horsfield finished three shots behind to share third place. Italian Pavan climbs up to 27th from 36th while Englishman Horsfield jumps up to 123rd from 157th.
The top 50 players in the Race to Dubai Rankings will contest the season-ending US $8 million DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai from November 21-24 where US $3 million will be up for grabs for the winner, making it the richest prize in world tournament golf.