Wattel flying high after KLM Open victory

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SPIJK, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 17: Romain Wattel of France poses with the trophy after winning on Day Four of the KLM Open at The Dutch on September 17, 2017 in Spijk, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Romain Wattel landed his first European Tour title after a dramatic finish at the KLM Open.

The Frenchman, who had recorded 25 top-ten finishes in his previous 186 events without tasting victory, was in control for much of the final round but survived a late scare when he missed the green with his approach to the last.

He successfully got up and down for par and a closing 69, which gave him a 15 under total.

That was one ahead of fast-finishing Canadian Austin Connelly, with Kiradech Aphibarnrat – Wattel’s main challenger for much of the day – finding water with his second to the 18th and dropping to 12 under with the subsequent double bogey.

Wattel’s victory was all the more remarkable as he had not finished higher than 24th previously this season and came into the week down at 130th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.

Thailand’s Aphibarnrat held a one shot lead overnight but Wattel swiftly passed him with three birdies from close range in his first six holes.

French rookie Joël Stalter leapfrogged Wattel when he birdied the eighth and his compatriot’s par putt from eight feet lipped out. Stalter’s challenge faded with three bogeys on the back nine but Wattel birdied the tenth and, although he bogeyed the next, a run of pars kept him in contention as others stumbled.

Aphibarnrat briefly led whe he birdied the 14th, but he found water at the next and double bogeyed before suffering the same fate at the last as he attempted to put pressure on Wattel by reaching the green at the par five in two.

The 20 year old Connelly had six birdies in a closing 66 to finish second on 14 under, with Stalter, German Sebastian Heisele, English pair Eddie Pepperell and Lee Westwood and South Africans George Coetzee and Justin Walters all tied for third a shot further back.

Player quotes

Romain Wattel: “I feel very good right now. I wasn’t feeling great at the beginning of the week to be honest because I have being playing badly this year. I’m not going to say that everything was perfect this week but my putting was great all week and I just tried to play as smart as I could and I am obviously delighted with the result.

“I made a great start to the final round and that really help to calm me down. I was just trying to focus on releasing my shots because sometimes I can get to tight. But today I was just focusing on the target and I did that well.

“The back nine was more difficult and there was a lot of pressure but I just tried to make the best score I could. And the finish was really tough today so I was honestly just trying to get the ball on the green because I knew I was putting well enough to make pars.

“I have been in contention before and while I had not won before I knew what I had to do; I knew what I had to expect and thankfully this time it was my week. It feels amazing to win for the first time – I am so happy right now.”

Austin Connelly: “I played exceptionally well today and made a lot of putts which is so important in a final round like today because it just takes so much pressure off of you when you are making putts.

“This is a huge result for me. I only had one more event that I was guaranteed to play to try and win my European Tour card but it looks like I might have done it this week. This is my first time being in this position as I am not long in the professional game – I feel very blessed to have finished the way I did.”

Lee Westwood: “I played lovely again today. I might have gone as low as I needed to but this has been a really positive week for me. To be honest this is the best I have played for a couple of years in terms of ball-striking and control so I am delighted with what is my best results of the year. There are a lot of positives to take from that and now I can really look forward to playing in and hosting the British Masters.”

Final scores
269 R Wattel  (Fra) 69 67 64 69,

270 A Connelly (Can) 71 67 66 66,

271 L Westwood (Eng) 70 65 67 69, J Walters (RSA) 72 67 65 67, E Pepperell (Eng) 69 68 69 65, S Heisele (Ger) 66 68 68 69, G Coetzee (RSA) 69 67 68 67, J Stalter (Fra) 65 67 69 70,

272 B Wiesberger  (Aut) 66 69 71 66, C Wood  (Eng) 70 69 68 65, M Wallace (Eng) 68 68 69 67, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 68 65 66 73, J Lagergren (Swe) 67 65 70 70,

273 P Dunne (Irl) 74 68 65 66, C Pigem  (Esp) 72 67 68 66,

274 J Lima  (Por) 70 68 69 67,

275 R Finch  (Eng) 66 67 72 70, C Berardo (Fra) 69 72 67 67, M Manassero (Ita) 68 68 68 71,

276 J Scrivener (Aus) 70 68 70 68, D Stewart (Sco) 71 68 70 67, A Björk (Swe) 73 65 73 65, W Besseling  (Ned) 70 69 70 67, T Sinnott (Aus) 68 73 68 67,

277 R Ramsay  (Sco) 70 72 68 67, W Ormsby (Aus) 74 68 66 69, M Ilonen  (Fin) 69 70 68 70, C Hanson (Eng) 68 71 68 70, M Kieffer (Ger) 69 69 72 67, O Fisher  (Eng) 72 68 70 67,

278 R Dinwiddie  (Eng) 69 69 73 67, S Manley (Wal) 71 68 68 71, W Ashun (Chn) 67 68 71 72, R Fisher (Eng) 73 68 68 69, D Frittelli (RSA) 70 69 69 70, B Evans  (Eng) 72 69 67 70, M Carlsson  (Swe) 72 68 67 71,

279 D Horsey (Eng) 76 66 68 69, P Hanson (Swe) 70 69 68 72, J Carlsson (Swe) 75 67 67 70, M Pavon (Fra) 68 69 70 72, D Perrier (Fra) 69 70 69 71, T Detry  (Bel) 75 66 68 70, F Zanotti (Par) 70 70 67 72, D Huizing (Ned) 69 71 72 67, M Korhonen (Fin) 67 71 70 71, P Angles  (Esp) 68 70 73 68,

280 J Campillo (Esp) 76 66 73 65, J Ahlers (RSA) 72 69 73 66, M Albertus (Ned) 69 70 73 68, D Brooks (Eng) 69 71 69 71, F Fritsch  (Ger) 71 70 68 71, D Burmester (RSA) 77 65 68 70, A Otaegui  (Esp) 71 71 70 68,

281 A Wall (Eng) 70 69 74 68, J Suri (USA) 70 68 71 72, P Widegren  (Swe) 68 72 69 72, P Harrington (Irl) 72 70 70 69,

282 M Warren (Sco) 69 67 73 73,

283 R Fox (Nzl) 71 71 71 70, A Chesters  (Eng) 70 70 73 70,

284 G Storm  (Eng) 70 72 72 70, A Cañizares  (Esp) 72 70 71 71, R Bland (Eng) 71 67 70 76,

285 S Brazel (Aus) 73 67 74 71, J Fahrbring (Swe) 69 73 70 73,

286 J Edfors (Swe) 68 74 72 72, P Maddy (Eng) 69 69 75 73,

288 N Fasth (Swe) 69 72 73 74,

289 R Miller (Ned) 73 69 72 75, S Gros (Fra) 75 66 74 74,

Notes on Romain Wattel’s victory

  • Wattel’s first European Tour victory in his 187th European Tour event.
  • Becomes be the 13th first-time winner in the 2017 Race to Dubai.
  • Would move to 483,348 points and inside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai.
  • Moves into the top 200 of the Official World Golf Ranking, from 451st.
  • Victory comes in his seventh appearance in the KLM Open, beating his previous best of fifth in 2014. Apart from this week, that was the only other time Wattel made the cut at the KLM Open.
  • The third Frenchman to win the KLM Open, and the first to win since Marcel Dallemagne in 1933. The first French victory, by Auguste Boyer, was in 1932.
  • The 37th French victory in European Tour history. Those 37 wins are shared between 15 players.
  • The second French victory of the 2017 season, following Alex Levy’s win in the Volvo China Open.
  • Extends his European Tour exemption until the end of the 2019 season.
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