Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey claimed his first European Tour victory at the Estoril Open de Portugal after defeating Gonzalo Fernandez-Catano of Spain at the third hole of a sudden-death playoff.
The 30-year-old from Belfast produced a superb final round of 66 to race through the field and set a clubhouse target of seven under par that only Fernandez-Castano was able to match. The Spaniard finished just after the Northern Irishman with a round of 67.
The duo then had an anxious wait as the last groups completed their final rounds. But, the contenders slowly fell away. Francesco Molinari came up one stroke shy and Mikael Lundberg of Sweden, who needed a birdie at the last to force his way into a tie, could only manage a bogey five on the closing hole.
The final pair of Paul Broadhurst and Maarten Lafeber had a difficult day and, after Broadhurst failed to hole his second shot to the last, Hoey and Fernandez-Castano could not be caught.
The pair made their way back to the 18th tee to begin the playoff. Both missed the green with their second shots but both were able to get up-and-down to save par.
So it was back to the tee again. This time Hoey missed the green short in almost exactly the same spot he had the previous time while Fernandez-Castano found the heart of the green. After Hoey had chipped up, the Spaniard had a putt for the title that, agonisingly, grazed the left edge of the cup. Hoey then calmly stroked home his six-foot par putt to keep his hopes of a maiden victory alive.
They then headed back to the 17th. Both found the fairway from the tee but, again, both missed the green with their approaches. After chipping up to 15 feet, Fernandez-Castano missed with his par effort leaving Hoey with a six-foot putt for the title.
The man from Belfast looked like an experienced winner as he rolled it in to claim the win, €208,330 and a two-year Tour exemption.
Molinari finished alone in third place, one stroke ahead of Broadhurst, Lundberg and Jamie Donaldson of Wales.
Estoril Open de Portugal
Oitavos Dunes, Cascais, Portugal
Apr 2-5, purse €1,261,205, par 71
1 Michael Hoey (NIR) 66 76 69 66 277 €208,330
2 Gonzalo Fdz Castano (Esp) 70 72 68 67 277 €138,880
3 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 71 71 68 68 278 €78,250
T4 Paul Broadhurst (Eng) 71 68 67 73 279 €53,083
T4 Jamie Donaldson (Wal) 71 69 67 72 279 €53,083
T4 Mikael Lundberg (Swe) 70 72 67 70 279 €53,083
T7 Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 69 73 69 69 280 €28,950
T7 Alastair Forsyth (Sco) 67 73 69 71 280 €28,950
T7 Paul Lawrie (Sco) 71 69 68 72 280 €28,950
T7 David Lynn (Eng) 69 73 65 73 280 €28,950
T7 Steve Webster (Eng) 68 72 71 69 280 €28,950
Note: Players in bold signifies Titleist ball usage only