Kearney ties 29th as Veerman sails to Czech Masters victory

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Johannes Veerman (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

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Niall Kearney signed off on another solid week with a three-under par 69 as Johannes Veerman carded a final round 68 to claim his maiden European Tour title on a hard-fought final day at the D+D REAL Czech Masters.

Royal Dublin professional Kearney is projected to rise four places on the Race to Dubai rankings to 115th after posting five birdies and a double on his way to a five-under par tally and a share of 29th spot. That was the best the Irish could manage with Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington a shot further back at minus-four after a 73 while Gavin Moynihan also carded a 73 to finish at seven-over par.

American Veerman started the final round at Albatross Golf Resort two strokes behind 54-hole leader Tapio Pulkkanen, who was also seeking a first European Tour victory.

He moved into the lead for the first time thanks to consecutive birdies on the ninth and tenth, but was quickly caught at the top of the leaderboard by Sean Crocker and Henrik Stenson who also staked their claims for the title before falling away on the home straight.

Pulkannen recovered from bogeys on eight and ten with three birdies on the back nine, but another dropped shot on 17 saw him share the lead with Veerman on the 18th tee on 15 under par.

Veerman found the fairway with his drive, but Pulkkanen pushed his tee shot into the thick rough and his second shot found the water, putting paid to the Finn’s title tilt. Veerman made the green in two and two-putted for par and his first European Tour victory.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I was asked if I could put it in to words and I can’t. When I walked off the green I felt relief, more than anything. Being neck-and-neck with Henrik, and Tapio, and Sean Crocker and a whole bunch of guys. To come out on top. Breathe a sigh of relief. I’m elated. I feel amazing.

“It did (feel like match play). When Tapio made birdie on 16 I knew I needed to make mine to stay within distance. Then on 18, I knew if I put one in play, it’s a simple hole, but it would put pressure on him because it’s not easy from the rough.

“(On 14) that was maybe the best shot I’ve ever hit in my life. In a tournament coming down the stretch, I can’t think of a better shot that I’ve hit. Two holes before that on 12, I hit a five wood that carried the hazard by a yard. That was lucky, really well struck but lucky it carried. 14 was everything I had.

“This is ten times better. Getting through Q-School was relief. It was nerves. You’re playing for playing rights. To finally break out and win on the European Tour, it’s a dream come true being a European Tour winner. It’s something you practice for when you’re 12/13 years old, imagining making that putt. My putt was only a foot, so I wasn’t so nervous over it. I’ve got to soak it in. I feel amazing.”

Crocker and Pulkkanen shared second on 13 under par, while 2016 Czech Masters winner Paul Peterson and Stenson finished joint fourth one stroke further back.

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