Alvaro Quiros marked a dramatic return to the European Tour winners’ circle at the Rocco Forte Open – Verdura, Sicily as the Spaniard defeated South Africa’s Zander Lombard on the second play-off hole to claim a seventh title, his first in over six years.
The 34 year old, who prior to this week had only made five cuts in his last 20 stars, defied the form book at Verdura Golf Club as he came flying out of the blocks with four birdies in the first six holes – draining monster birdie putts at the fifth and sixth.
It appeared to be written in the stars for the resurgent Quiros as he opened up a seven-stroke lead at one point, but it all came undone thereafter as four bogeys and a double-bogey opened the door for potential contenders.
The promising 22 year old Lombard was in the ascendancy after opening with back to back birdies and his three under final round 68 piled the pressure on playing partner Quiros, who was forced to hole a ten-footer on the last to take it to extra holes – signing for a two over 73 and joining Lombard on a 14 under total.
The Dubai-based Cadiz native made his experience count though, and after they halved the first play-off hole in pars, a smart two-putt for par was enough to seal the victory for Quiros on the second time of asking – Lombard missing a three-footer to end his hopes of a maiden win.
A consolation for the Pretorian came in the shape of qualification for next week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, while Li Haotong of China finished in outright third place after holing an albatross at the par five 12th en route to a five under final round 66 and a 13 under total.
“I’m very happy” Said Quiros. “Obviously it shouldn’t have been like that with a play-off, but in the end it’s a victory and that’s the most important thing.”
“It’s a strange feeling because it’s a victory, it means a lot of things. But unfortunately I didn’t really like how I ended the round. It should never have gone that far. But at the same time I could be talking about finishing second so I’m happy.”
“I’m positive because it means I can go back onto the European Tour and I’m positive because even after the finish that I had, I’ve been able to manage, so there are a lot of good things.”
“I knew I had a five shots advantage and that’s a lot of shots but on a day like this, it’s nothing. I knew I had to play as well as the previous days and keep doing what I’m doing. The most important thing is that I’ve been able to do a good job for the whole week and I’ve been able to go low.”
“I have been struggling because I was trying to improve. I changed my swing a little bit technically speaking and I lost my natural swing. At the end of the day, it’s difficult to stop and come out with a different setup.”
“Obviously the lowest point was last season, losing my card for the first time in my career and I had to fight for it. The most important thing for me back then was to recover my game, because I knew that if I could do that after a year on the Challenge Tour I should be able to get my card and come back. Fortunately it happened earlier and I’m happy to say I’m hitting the ball better. I know where I am technically and that’s a big improvement.”
Of the Irish in Sicily it was a disappointing final day for Michael Hoey. After opening rounds of 61 and 68 he was right in contention to regain his full European Tour card back but weekend rounds of 75 and 72 dropped the Galgorm professional back to a tie for 11th earning him € 15,614.
Gary Hurley finished a further two strokes back on a -6 total claiming € 10,550.