Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn birdied the first extra playoff hole to capture his second European Masters title in three years on Sunday after coming back from two shots down in the final round. At the weather-hit mountain course at Crans Montana, Bjorn holed a 12 foot putt to defeat Scotland’s Craig Lee in mist and steady rain after both players ended regulation play tied at 20-under par.
It is the two-time Ryder Cup winner’s 14th career victory, but first in two years while Lee was looking to capture a maiden Tour title.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson shot a final-round 66 to finish alone in third on 19-under, while Spaniard Alejandro Canizares was a further shot back in fourth.
“It was nice,” the relieved Dane said after closing out victory on the first playoff after Lee found the bunker with his tee shot on the 18th, which gave him a tough approach to the par-four green. “When I get into situations like today [Sunday], I really know to grind it out and I have to say I’ve been pretty good at closing out tournaments in my career,” he said. “I give everything in those situations and I just grind, and grind and grind even knowing that I don’t need to play great. That’s what it’s about late on Sunday afternoons and I’ve just got that in me.”
Victory earned Bjorn a first-prize check of 366,660 euros (US$483,185) and will lift him from 66th to 45th in the world rankings.
“This year, I have come up short a few times, including the hurt in Munich, but I came here really desperate to win this golf tournament, so this one is very sweet for me, given I am 42 years of age,” Bjorn said. “I had two bogeys in 72 holes, which is good going around here. I felt good and I got over the line. It was nice to do that in a playoff. I’ve had a hard time dealing with pressure situations and there is no more pressure than that.”
It was harsh on Lee, who equaled the course record on Saturday with a sensational 10-under-par 61 that sent him into the final day with a two-shot lead. Bjorn needed just nine putts over the front nine to take the clubhouse lead, but Lee hit back with three birdies down the stretch and agonizingly saw his birdie stroke for victory lip out at the final hole which sent the pair to a playoff.
Jimenez finished tied for fifth, with Englishman Ross Fisher five shots back.
The victory puts Bjorn top of the Ryder Cup qualifying points table after two weeks of qualifying.