Tjaart van der Walt had a fantastic week at the European Tour's Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open and tied for the lead on five-under-par, but lost a playoff with Simon Thornton.
On Sunday after both players finished with a run of consecutive pars through the tough St. Omer Golf Club back nine before a greenside bunker foiled the South African’s chances as the pair played the 18th for the first hole of the sudden-death playoff.
The result marks van der Walt’s second top-five European Tour result this year, and it came on the back of a Thursday 67.
“It’s really disappointing to get so close and not finish it off,” said Van der Walt, who also carded a one under par 70 after entering the final day tied for the lead alongside Thornton and Frenchman Baptiste Chapellan.
The South African carded level-par on Friday and Saturday at St. Omer, which carries an average winning of score of eight-under-par from the last 10 years.
The Sunday showdown brought out the fight in both players. Van der Walt had to recover from a double-bogey six at the eighth hole, while Thornton looked finished after making two drops over his last three holes before the turn.
The pair hung on, matching each other shot for shot. The Irishman birdied the 10th return to one-under, and van der Walt joined that lead with a birdie at the 12th. From there it was pars until the clubhouse, which meant a sudden-death playoff down the 18th.
Playoffs at St. Omer don’t usually last for too many holes, due to the toughness of the course.
On the first extra hole both Thornton and van der Walt made the fairway with their drives, but the latter’s approach came up short and found a bunker greenside right.
His splash out from the sand stopped left him with a 12-footer for par that he could not sink, and in the end it was a fairytale Sunday for Thornton.
“It’s so big for me,” he said tearfully. “On Father’s Day too, he passed away three years ago and it still hurts, but they are happy tears today. This is dedicated to him.
Van der Walt’s desire to win will be stronger now than ever, and he’ll be back next week, fighting away.
“I think if I can iron out those little mistakes I can go on to win tournaments by bigger margins and I'm the kind of person who gets motivated by these kind of things so hopefully the door will open again and I can do it with flying colours next time.”