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Fleetwood the toast of Gleneagles

ESPN staff
August 25, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Fleetwood's win is his first on the European Tour © Getty Images
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Johnnie Walker Championship final leaderboard

Tommy Fleetwood earned his maiden European Tour win at the Johnnie Walker Championship after a scintillating finish at Gleneagles.

The 22-year-old Englishman defeated Scot Stephen Gallacher and Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez with a birdie at the first play-off hole - the par-five 18th - while his opponents could only manage par.

But all the action came in the final few holes running of the regulation 72.

At one point, any number from a group of eight players could have won the event, and Gallacher took the initiative with a 15-foot eagle putt at the last to move to 18-under and lay down the gauntlet for his challengers.

Gonzalez and Fleetwood, on 17-under with one to play, both found the fairway at 18 before Gonzalez pushed his second in to the greenside bunker. Fleetwood found the dancefloor, but left himself a lot of work to do.

Either could have holed out for the win and Gonzalez, from the sand, expertly splashed out and fed his ball down to the hole - only to see it hit the cup and stay up.

It meant Fleetwood was left with around 20-feet to win the tournament, but his effort drifted just wide and the pair returned to the 18th tee where they were joined by Gallacher.

In the play-off, Gonzalez and Fleetwood found the rough at the back of the green while Gallacher ended up in the sand.

Gallacher failed to get up and down and was forced to settle for a five - and when Gonzalez and both rolled to within three feet it looked like the play-off would continue with two.

But Gonzalez inexplicably pushed his putt wide and Fleetwood stroked home for his first European Tour title and the first prize of £235,000.

"The other two guys were a little unlucky with their putts and before you know it you have a four footer for the win," Fleetwood, who carded a closing 70, said.

"God knows how I made contact. It all seemed to unravel really quickly."

Fleetwood was the youngest winner on the Challenge Tour two season ago, but just scraped keeping his European Tour card courtesy of a first top ten of the year in the final event in South Africa.

"It's unbelievable," he added. "I have been up there a lot and not even had a top-five finish and all of a sudden you come away with a win.

"It just seemed to come a bit easier this week. I was nervous as hell on the first green but after that I was pretty calm. It was so tight, almost claustrophobic on the leaderboard; if you dropped a shot you went down ten places.

"My bogey on 15 dropped me out of the lead but it was a good one because I had duffed my way down the hole. On the 16th tee I said let's finish like I did on Friday with three birdies and knowing what I had to do on the 18th really helped.

"I'd carved two drives into the trees earlier in the week and had it in my mind that I might want to hit an iron, but I knew I needed birdie and hit two great shots, driver and five iron, onto the green."

The Ryder Cup points race starts next week in Wales and Fleetwood added: "I wish it started a week earlier but the Ryder Cup is a long way off. It's a lifetime goal but whether that's next year or down the line doesn't matter as long as I can achieve it."

Scott Henry and Bernd Wiesberger were denied by the play-off trios late flurry and were made to settle for a tie for fourth at 17-under par, one ahead of Emaliano Grillo, Brett Rumford and Paul Waring.

Thorbjorn Olesen finished alone in ninth at 15-under, with David Drysdale, Mikko Korhonen, Shane Lowry and Richie Ramsay earning top-ten finishes.

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