April 23, 2017: Overnight leader Bernd Wiesberger of Austria beat England’s Tommy Fleetwood on the first playoff hole to win the US$2.8 million Shenzhen International in China and secure his fourth European Tour title.
Wiesberger, 31, led after the second and third rounds at Genzon Golf Club in his 200th European Tour event, and scrambled to a one-under-par 71 on Sunday to force a playoff with Fleetwood, who carded a tournament-best 63 to set the clubhouse target at 16-under.
Returning to the 18th tee in pouring rain, Wiesberger saw his blocked drive finish on a downward lie on the bank of Dragon Lake before the 1.88-metre Austrian nailed a nine-iron from 152 metres to five feet, coolly converting after Fleetwood missed a long birdie putt.
“I’m glad to have that fourth win. I’m just really happy with the way it’s turned out,” said Wiesberger, who won two European Tour titles in 2012 and added the Open de France in 2015.
“Tommy has had a great day and I’m just grateful to make that one shot in the playoff when I needed to. I’m feeling a bit relieved. I’ve had a stretch of really good events the last couple of months so it’s really nice to have a trophy now.”
The World Number 43 – who is set to move inside the 30 – started the day at 15-under, three ahead of South African Dylan Frittelli. Birdies at three and seven either side of a bogey at five put him 16-under, where he remained following 11 straight pars.
After six players drew within a stroke of him throughout the round, Wiesberger shared the lead with Fleetwood, England’s Ross Fisher and South Africa’s George Coetzee after all three birdied 17, before the latter pair dropped shots at 18. Fisher (68) and France’s Gregory Bourdy (67) tied for third at 15-under.
Wiesberger said a 30-foot par putt at 12 and another pressure-packed putt on 17 were key during a day that became harder as the round went on and rain started to fall.
“The further you go on, the more you see the guys catching up and the harder it is. It was a good battle with great players chasing after me,” said Wiesberger, who has now won three times in Asia, having won a European Tour title in South Korea in 2012 and an Asian Tour event in Indonesia the following year.
“I knew it was going to be hard and that I’d have to shoot well under par to win outright because the guys behind me were all playing well. I wasn’t expecting anything less. They were throwing a lot at me and all I could do was make pars. At the end of the day, I’m just glad I got in a spot where I could play for the title.”
Wiesberger has been one of Europe’s leading players for the past two seasons, finishing ninth on the Race to Dubai in 2015 and 2016, and finished in the -five in seven of his previous 14 European Tour events.
Aside from four wins, he has eight runner-up finishes on the European Tour, including six in the past three seasons.
“I’m just relieved. I wanted to get off to a good start and show them that I’m up for it and I did. I then scrapped around a little bit with a couple of near misses, which could have got to me, but I stayed calm,” Wiesberger said.
“I played on decently and had big saves on 12 and 17. I didn’t get a lot of breaks out there and two plugged balls on 12 and 13 really didn’t help me much. I felt like I had a tough time holing putts and getting something moving again after so many holes.”
Wiesberger is the third tournament debutant and first European to win the Shenzhen International, following triumphs by Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Korean Soomin Lee.
Fleetwood, 26, was left to rue another near miss after finishing runner-up at the 2014 Volvo China Open at Genzon and third at the first Shenzhen International in 2015. However, the World Number 33, the field’s second-ranked player behind Bubba Watson, was delighted to post seven birdies and an eagle to force a playoff.