Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn won a marathon five-man playoff on Sunday to claim the Johnnie Walker Championship title, his second victory of the season.
The former Ryder Cup man’s birdie at the fifth extra hole was enough to shake off a determined George Coetzee of South Africa after the pair had gone to sudden-death with Briton Mark Foster, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and tournament outsider Bernd Wiesberger of Austria.
Bjorn’s mere two-foot putt after playing over and over again the testing 18th hole of the Centenary course that will host the 2014 Ryder Cup earned the 40-year-old Dane his 12th European Tour title.
The playoff quintet had all finished on 11-under-par 277. Bjorn closed with a three-under 69, Foster 72, Larrazabal 69, Coetzee 67 and Wiesberger 69. The five were a stroke ahead of Briton Stephen Gallacher and Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm.
While it was a triumph for Bjorn, it proved to be yet another lost opportunity for Foster, who has allowed several chances to slip through his fingers since his only victory in the 2003 Dunhill Championship.
The Englishman led by three with seven holes to go and only needed to par the last to end his frustration. However, a drive into trees that left him needing five more shots to get down for bogey, set up the sudden-death shootout.
The inexperienced outsider Wiesberger was the first to go, bogeying the opening extra hole. Larrazabal, who had beaten Sergio Garcia in a playoff to take the BMW International in June, then went out with a bogey at the next playoff hole.
All three remaining players then produced magnificent approaches, Foster to two feet, Bjorn three feet and Coetzee two feet, to birdie the third extra hole.
Foster, whose only success had come after a six-man playoff, then went out at the fourth sudden-death hole.
Coetzee bravely holed out from 12 feet to take the shootout on after another majestic approach left Bjorn with just three feet for his birdie.
Finally, Coetzee, without a tour title to his name, had to bow to another superb birdie from Bjorn.