Conor Purcell secured his first top-five Challenge Tour finish of the season as he closed out the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge with a strong final round at Newmachar Golf Club.
The Portmarnock man would have had bad memories of last week’s Sunday collapse only a week prior at the Challenge de Espana, but he showed considerable poise and control to card a three-under 68 in his final round to finish in a share of fifth at seven-under-par.
Indeed, were it not for a two-over 73 on day two – his only round of the week not in the 60s – he perhaps could have even challenged the leaders, with Javier Sainz and Jeremy Freiburghaus finishing joint-top at 11-under-par.
And it would be the Spaniard who would triumph for his maiden Challenge Tour title, taking advantage of Freiburghaus having blown a four-shot lead with a six-under 65 in his final round, and he would go on to win it with a birdie on the second extra hole.
Purcell will be thrilled to see his improvement from one week to the next and this result will do his hopes of securing full status on the Challenge Tour next season no harm as he found four birdies and one bogey in his final round to climb the standings.
Three of those birdies arrived in the first five holes for the 24-year-old and, although he dropped a shot at the eighth, a late birdie at the par-four 17th got him inside the top-five and he will be playing with confidence going forward.
It was a catastrophic day for Freiburghaus, who started the day four shots ahead but almost missed out on a play-off after a double-bogey and two bogeys, but four birdies – including one on the 18th hole – took it to extra holes with Sainz after a level-par 71.
The Spaniard carded a superb bogey-free 65 on the final day to set the clubhouse target at 11-under and it would be he who would claim the trophy as he carried that momentum into the play-off and he won it at the second time of asking.
Sainz believes his conservative game plan was key to successfully navigating the tree-lined Aberdeenshire layout, however it was an aggressive approach that enabled him to prevail in the play-off.
“I feel amazing right now,” he said. “To hold my nerve and finish six under par today was special. My putter was hot and luckily I made an important putt to win the play-off.
“I like the courses narrow because it suits my game. I can’t hit it as far as some of the other guys so I have to be accurate. I was very good off the tee all week and I’m very happy with the way I finished.
“I was very nervous for the play-off but I decided to take driver on the second play-off hole. This was key because it meant I could attack the pin with my second shot and left myself a short putt for birdie.”
Further down the leaderboard, Greystones’ Paul Dunne finished his week with a level-par 71 to pick up a 49th-placed finish at three-over-par for the tournament, with Kinsale’s John Murphy rounding things off with a three-over 74 to drop to 65th at eight-over overall.